Having terrorised the nation’s leading amateur lightweights, Midland menace Leon Woodstock unleashes his explosive fists into the professional arena at The York Hall, Bethnal Green tonight.
The 21-year-old from Leicester halted 16 of 24 opponents during a brief but violent flirtation with the amateur code that peaked with an English Boxing Elite semi final appearance.
‘All those stoppages came with big padded gloves and opponents wearing head guards,’ warns Woodstock who intends to compete in the super-feather division.
‘My ‘A Game’ revolves around head movement, edging close, then attacking head and body. I’ve this random instinct for smelling when the opponents hurt.
‘Away from the gym, people see me as a clown, a fun guy but when I enter the ring, I turn dark! Once I tag ‘em , I don’t stop till they drop. My motto’s always been: ‘Put ‘em on their arse!’
The kid they call ‘Wonderboy’’ didn’t actually embrace The Noble Art until the age of 16 but he’s been using his dukes to destructive effect since his formative years.
‘I must have had a scrap three or four times every week when I was a school,’ he recalls.
‘My first knockout came in a Year Five maths class when another kid said: ‘Shut up, you black bastard.’ I hit him really quick and he just slumped. Got excluded for that!’
‘Growing up in Beaumont Leys, bang in Leicester city centre, it was rough, man. I wasn’t substantial at school. I always felt I should be doing something else.
‘I was never the biggest but always had a bit of a mouth on me! Back then, if someone brought trouble, you didn’t ask how heavy the kid was, how many previous (street) scraps they’d had. You just went at it.
‘And it always finished with me putting the other kid over. Every time I landed clean, they dropped. I soon became quite respected in the area. I could always punch.’
Not for the first time, the Sweet Science helped straighten out the wayward youth, invoking much needed discipline and moral fibre.
‘Boxing prevented me from developing into a right handful,’ he concedes.
‘I didn’t have the best of childhoods. Let’s just say my pops wasn’t a great guy, didn’t treat my mum right. I built up a lot of rage but I was able to release all that anger through boxing.
‘Now I’m all about the legacy I can leave behind. All negativity is gone. I intend to do good things in and out of the ring. I want to help make life better for others; provide opportunities for people to fulfil their talents.’
Born in Hackney, east London, the Woodstock family migrated to the midlands when Leon was just three. His interest in the fight game was first fuelled by his maternal grandfather when Woodstock was still at primary school.
He remembers: ‘Granddad used to box over in Bombay, India. He had eight fights, lost the first to his best friend, then won the other seven. I used to play spar with him from the age of about five. He always told people I hit very hard. It was he who called me ‘Wonderboy’, long before I started up boxing.
‘My granddad got me into Sugar Ray Robinson; a great boxer who could also fight and who was fearless. I also loved watching tapes of Nigel Benn. He’s the inspiration for how I fight. Of the current crop (Keith) ‘One Time’ Thurman’s my man. I like to think I’m a raw version of him.’
Boxing exclusively out of the Leicester Unity ABC gym, schooled by coach Ajmal ‘Hudge’ Butt, the combination of Woodstock’s raw power and mean intent was immediately evident.
‘I won all my first 10 amateur fights by stoppage,’ he claims.
‘Papa Hudge’ is like the dad I never really had. He’s the only man I’ll listen to. He took me around all the local gyms and I sparred plenty of big lumps yet most of them fell.
‘I got to the English semi finals dropping or stopping several far more experienced kids and only lost on split decision (to Tiger’s Jack Daniel) but I was never called up for England or GB. I believe my style was a bit too aggressive.
‘Amateur boxing proved a great way to get a feel of the ring and pick up experience of boxing before an audience but I always wanted to be a pro. There were never enough rounds in the amateurs and the judging was just ridiculous.
‘Today, I’m a full time boxer from 7am until 8.30pm, though obviously I’ll have a few breaks during the day.’
Singlet ditched, the Jason McClory managed starlet begins a fresh chapter tonight, promising a few ‘add ons’ to supplement his combustible tendencies.
‘Those who knew me from the amateurs know me as vicious and relentless but I’m actually becoming quite versatile,’ he insists.
‘I’ve got quite high ability for boxing off the back foot. Recently I’ve done a lot of sparring with (Midland Area super-feather champ) Troy James and I’m enjoying that.
‘I can’t wait to show the fans the improvements I’ve been making. I don’t think they’re ready for what they’ll witness.
‘Despite quite short notice, I’ve already got rid of over 80 tickets. I’m really looking forward to it. I want to stay as busy as I can and put as many opponents to sleep as possible!’
Tickets priced at £40 and £60 are available from Ticket Master at www.ticketmaster.co.uk