Isaac Chamberlain ready to end lengthy absence from boxing and still holds world title ambitions

The cruiserweight tells Sky Sports about long-awaited return

Isaac Chamberlain
Image: Isaac Chamberlain still holds ambitions of winning a world cruiserweight title

Isaac Chamberlain had become the forgotten man of British boxing, but intends to be remembered as a world champion when he leaves the sport on his terms.

Chamberlain has not fought for 18 months. The cruiserweight contender was supposed to fight twice in the past month to kick-start his career, but coronavirus KO'd that plan.

Still, the 26-year-old's determined to "just be grateful," as he recalls true hardship.

"When I was 16 to 18 or 19, I used to sweep the floors at Miguel's Gym (Brixton, South London) just to get some money. We were poor. I didn't want to sell drugs.

"A man called Delroy used to give me five pounds at the end of the day. And I'd buy my food with that. I'd get sardines or pilchards, water, a protein shake and if I had anything left over, I'd get a Snickers. That's how I used to live everyday," he told Sky Sports.

Isaac Chamberlain
Image: Chamberlain is remaining upbeat despite his lengthy break from boxing

Chamberlain's a thinker and is keenly aware of the ramifications of the virus - both on health and livelihoods.

"There are a lot of people worse off than me. People have lost their lives, lots of people have lost their jobs and can't eat."

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He draws on the challenges of his youth with a fondness and pride. But the man who's been stuck with a 10-1 record far longer than he'd have liked, doesn't want anyone to be confused. He's far from content in inactivity.

"I was heartbroken. How much I'd put in. Two fights in two months. I was in great shape. I'd been training out in Miami, at The Body and Soul Boxing gym. I worked with some great people, like Deontay Wilder's strength and conditioning coach, Joey Scott. I was knocking out guys."

Chamberlain received technical instruction from Glen Johnson in Miami, Jamaica's former world light heavyweight champion, who also contended at super middleweight, coming out on the wrong ends of bouts with Carl Froch and George Groves.

Isaac Chamberlain, Luke Watkins
Image: The 26-year-old floored Luke Watkins on his way to a points win in his last fight

"He (Johnson) was getting me to create power off my right foot. It was working. I was sparring a tough Mexican guy. His coach was apparently telling him in Spanish to hit me hard, so Glen told me in English to do the same. I shaped him up as he came in and hit him with a right uppercut and he hit the canvas. That's where I was before all this happened."

Chamberlain also hails the Florida camp as formative for his character and in a way conditioning him for his current reality, living on his own in North London during lockdown.

"Miami was difficult. Living on my own, a few minutes from the gym. It was super hot in there. It was getting very difficult. The fights were the light at the end of the tunnel. Been out there for months, I'm used to being out of my comfort zone. It's like I've gone from isolation to isolation."

Chamberlain has found catharsis in writing during troubled times. And he's had more of those than the average 26-year-old Englishman. A cousin, Alex Mulumba was stabbed to death at the age of 15, while he became embroiled in an ugly dispute with a family member in the wake of his defeat to local rival Lawrence Okolie.

"Boxing's a great way to express yourself. But when you've got a lot on your mind, you can express yourself with words. I can express myself in writing. I write, write, pour out my heart. It's a great release. I've always liked writing. I got an A* in English GCSE at school."

Chamberlain's mother wanted him to build on his academic potential and study chemical engineering. But the imperative to provide for her and his siblings, crystallised a clear career crossroads in his teenage mind - sell drugs or box professionally.

"I needed money to feed the family. Drugs come with all sorts of problems, people come to your door, you put your family in danger. "

Chamberlain flirted with chasing amateur stardom, but when he missed out on London 2012, as a raw 18-year-old he decided to throw himself into the pro ranks. And despite not having a fight since October 2018 - a points victory over Luke Watkins - Chamberlain reports that he's financially stable thanks to his sponsors.

"I'm very well set. The main thing is my family, providing for them. Making sure my little brothers and sisters are taken care of. My little brother, Ephraim, he's 14 and he's playing football. I've been able to buy all of his kit."

Despite his material success, Chamberlain will not be advising his siblings to follow in his boxing footsteps.

"Hell no, bro! Boxing is brutal. No, I know what's it's like. I remember the Wadi Camacho fight (for Southern Area title in 2016). 'They' built me up. I was 21. I was supposed to be this tough black boy from Brixton. I had to win. I was ready to die in there. I know people always say that, but I mean it. What choice did I have?"

One of his sponsors provides the apartment where Chamberlain was forced to retreat hastily from Florida when the world and his fight schedule went into meltdown. He has not seen any of his beloved family, who remain south of the river, for more than a month, but he's retained a fierce focus on fitness.

"I'm trying to challenge myself. I'm aiming at three thousand sit-ups every day. I've ordered an exercise bike. I have a friend who owns a private gym, no one's there and I've been able to go in and use the bag and move around the ring."

Chamberlain is looking forward to reuniting with his trainer Angel Fernandez when lockdown eases. Fernandez came into the public eye after consulting with Anthony Joshua before his rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr, but has a long-standing relationship with Chamberlain.

"I'm going to be working with him again. We went through a whole lot. The person who should be benefiting is Angel."

Despite the extended lay-off, he talks with a verve and positivity and that mood is bolstered by his promoter, Mick Hennessey's backing.

"Mick knows the value, I have. He's paying me much more than I've earned before and gave me some money when these fights fell through. He believes in me. The broadcasters as well, they want to help build a casual audience before going pay-per-view. One hundred per cent it helps build confidence. They believe in me that much."

Boxer, broadcaster and promoter aim to make up for lost time when the sport is allowed to resume. Their plan is to fight in September, October, November and December. The big goal is the WBC belt, currently held by a man stopped by Tony Bellew on his night of world title glory in 2015.

"Ilunga Makabu is very good. But he's stayed the same [since Bellew loss]. He keeps his head low and he's not the quickest. He's still open to the left hook as you saw with Bellew."

After becoming a world champion, Chamberlain would like to unify the cruiserweight belts and set the record straight with the one man to have beaten him, the European Champion Okolie.

Lawrence Okolie and Isaac Chamberlain
Image: The south Londoner endured a scrappy defeat to Lawrence Okolie

"That will happen very soon. He has a good fight against Glowacki (WBO Champion) and I'm looking at the WBC. But we'll come to terms in the near future and the fans will get a proper fight. Last time was a bit too early for both of us, it was messy."

Chamberlain's confident of besting Okolie in a rematch, but is not sitting around pondering permutations. He's training hard, "eating well," and learning. He's studying the body-language theories of Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson in view of developing a mental edge in the ring and is also developing a financial portfolio.

"It's important to invest money in stocks and shares, make your money work for you. You can't just put it in the bank or spend it."

With his savvy, diligence and prudence, Chamberlain carries huge potential to prosper. As Covid-19 shrinks everyone's horizons though, he's adopting a prisoner mentality.

"At this present moment, I'm taking everything day by day. Conquer the day. Like if you're in prison, you can't be thinking, 'I've got five years in here!' Conquer the day and the time will be pass and you'll be through and out."

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