THERE are a group of kids working out on the bags at Sheffield Boxing Centre, as I talk to Curtis Woodhouse.
Others are doing ‘crunches’ in the corner and I’m aware of the rhythmic tapping of a skipping rope hitting the floor.
Woodhouse is relaxed, chatty and messing around with some of the other lads in the gym when he suddenly becomes serious.
“I want to be British champion,” says the former Sheffield United midfielder. “I’ve played at the highest level in the Premiership and if I can get near the top in boxing then I’ll make history. No one else has done it.”
Woodhouse has boxed since 2006 and his next opponent is former European and IBO champion Jason Cook, ranked fourth in the country.
The light welterweight’s last fight in July ended with a loss on points to ex-World Amateur champion, Frankie Gavin. This one might not make the distance.
“It’ll be an explosive fight” he promises. “Me and Jason both fight the same way. I like to bite down on my gum shield, let my shots go and take people out. One of us will get knocked out.”
His concentration powers are obvious, which might not always have been the case.
He is embarrassed by some of the trouble he got into when he was a wild child footballer.
He says he no longer drinks and the last thing he wants after six days training is to have a punch up on his day off.
“I love this game. I wake up and can’t wait to get to the gym.
“You can’t go out (drinking) at the weekend and think you can pick up on Monday morning where you left off.”
His attitude illustrates how much he’s matured. I suggest to him that boxing has given him a single mindedness he didn’t have while he was at United and elsewhere.
“As a kid there weren’t enough hours in the day for me to play football, but as I got older that love died. I stayed in football maybe three years longer than I should have, just for the money. But life’s not about money, it’s about achievement.
“I’ve played in games where I’ve not done well and we’ve won. Boxing is different. If I don’t perform I’ll end up with concussion. I miss being in a football dressing room, but the rewards in boxing are more. I know I’ve won because I have performed, not my centre forward.”
Trainer Glyn Rhodes is in no doubt where Woodhouse’s inner motivation comes from.
“It’s sheer determination. He lost to a former World Amateur champion on points, and people claim Gavin just had an off night.
“But that was down to Curtis, he gets in your face. When he started, he was known as an ex-footballer, but that’s changing.”
Opinions will change further if he beats Cook in Rotherham, on November 26.
“If you look at the top 10 in Britain, everyone’s had a shot at the title except me. I want the opportunity.Sometimes in boxing, doors get shut in your face and it’s a matter of kicking them in.”