When Jamal ‘The Sweet One’ Le Doux strolled into his home gym on a wintry Stoke-on-Trent morning in November ready to answer my questions, he made it feel as if I was the professional boxer, and he the avid fan.
A beaming smile came up the stairs at Impact Boxing, stitched to a body that was built to pack punches.
“People always say to me: in the ring, I’m dangerous, but on the outside, I’m actually a nice person,” the boxer told me, who’s surname is French for ‘The Sweet’ and inspired his alias.
The Stokie has had an impressive career so far, currently holding the Super Middleweight Midlands crown; and, before the Coronavirus outbreak, was set to challenge for the English title this spring.
So, when I caught up with the 28-year-old, I wanted to talk to both the friendly Jamal, and the fighter Le Doux.
Turning up the heat
Fighter Le Doux’s record speaks for itself – eight wins from nine bouts since his professional boxing debut in September 2017.
Stepping up from amateur to professional boxing is far from easy, but it appears that the local lad timed his move just right.
“I’m pretty surprised how far I’ve come so quickly,” he reflected. “I didn’t think I’d be Midlands champion so soon, and that I’d be arranging a fight for the national title.
“I was going to go pro earlier, but it was the thought of funding myself that stopped me – medicals, expenses, my opponents, and being able to sell tickets, because if you can’t sell tickets then you can’t fight.
“I’ve been shocked by the support I’ve been getting through sponsors and ticket sales, as Stoke-on-Trent isn’t the most developed city in England, and fights are always expensive do’s.”
Fighter Le Doux has been looking to defend his Midlands crown, but with nobody to challenge him, he resorted to tick over fights in June and September.
But this hasn’t stopped him from improving under trainer Scott Lawton, a former English title holder, also from Stoke-on-Trent, who fought Amir Khan in 2007.
“In regards to my fights themselves, I’m developing as a boxer, and the further I’ve gone on in my career my performances have been much better,” said fighter Le Doux.
“The main thing that can prepare you for any fight is sparring and trying to spar as many different styles as you can – it’s about being able to adapt.”
Away from the ring, friendly Jamal has had music on his mind since he was a child; and even joked at throwing out fighter Le Doux’s gloves to help pursue a career behind the mic.
“I’d be crazy if I picked boxing,” he said. “Music is the easier one; just sit there writing songs and going on tour!”
Friendly Jamal produces grime and UK rap songs, including more recent records called Fight Back and Nothing Nice, which are available on Spotify.
“I was messing with music before I started boxing,” he reflected. “I’ve always been rapping, writing lyrics, and making beats.
“My job fell into sport instead of music, but music I can do on my own by buying equipment. I have a little studio in my bedroom where I can make songs.
“Music helped me connect with my Dad, because he had guitars and music production equipment and all that. I was influenced by him in that sense, and it’s something that me and him could bond over.
“My songs are inspired by my background and society, and how it impacts me or what I want to change.
“Boxing influences the songs because my life has changed through the sport, so the things that I talk about are more positive and come from a different perspective.”
Ditching the meats
Vegan diets are becoming increasingly popular with athletes; sporting superstars such as Lewis Hamilton and Serena Williams are two of many who have made the switch.
Friendly Jamal turned vegan in the New Year, with his girlfriend, to try and give fighter Le Doux an advantage in the ring.
“When I lost my first fight as a pro, I thought it was down to the mental side, rather than physical, so I started looking at ways I could change my life,” he said.
“I was looking at my wellbeing, looking at meditating and stuff like that, and I came across a guy on YouTube who basically gives you lessons on the mind – how you get stressed and bothered about things that don’t even matter.
“He’s vegan and he’d always say it’s important what you eat, and that planted the seed.
“When I ate animal products, I always found I was tired after, in a coma and didn’t want to move. But I could eat loads and loads of vegan food and be absolutely fine.”
Despite always keeping a watchful eye on what he eats, such a drastic change could have left fighter Le Doux on the ropes, but it’s in fact proved for the best.
“I’ve been boxing for a long time and I wouldn’t have gone vegan if it affected my boxing side, but it’s actually enhanced it,” he added.
“I feel like I’m fitter, and since I’ve gone vegan, the wins I’ve had have all been stoppages – that says it all. I wish I had made the switch a long time ago.”
Trick or treat, or both?
The friendly and fighter egos join forces when ‘The Sweet One’ gives back to the local community through helping out in a variety of projects.
“It’s part of my job in both boxing and music,” he explained. “I love working with the youth because they are the next generation and they are going to look after the future of the world.
“I didn’t have loads of support when I was younger, so it’s important for me to give back to the kids.”
Whilst working with the Cooperative Academy, ‘The Sweet One’ helped deliver a selection of sports such as football, table tennis, basketball, and of course boxing.
He has also recently worked with deprived children to create music, to which they filmed a music video that was released on YouTube.
His engagement in the local area has made ‘The Sweet One’ a popular figure in the city, and a role-model for youngsters.
“Winning is quite important, because they see me come into to school and they always congratulate me,” he smiled. “They’re buzzing; and leading up to a fight they always hope I win.
“They might not even like boxing, but they come in and have a go because they’ve seen me on social media.”
Friendly Jamal and fighter Le Doux could be very successful on their own accords, but together, they have the potential to make a huge impact on modern times.