Birmingham & Black Country

Afghanistan blast survivor John Loveday turns pro boxer

"I get more nervous before I go into the ring than I ever did going out on patrol - but then the training kicks in."

Those were the words of former Army corporal John Loveday on the day he announced the start of his professional boxing career.

The 24-year-old heavyweight, from Kitts Green in Birmingham, is the picture of calm and self-control - an attribute which should help him in the boxing ring.

It is also a skill that helped him survive a Taliban bomb blast.

Under heavy fire in Afghanistan on 16 September 2009, the then Cpl Loveday was thrown off his feet by an explosion while patrolling with British troops in the south-western province of Helmand.

The blast caused a bleed on his brain and resulted in temporary hearing loss in his left ear.

"I don't know how I did it, but the training took over and I got my guys out of there."

Only after escorting the seven people in his command away from the blast and out of the firing zone did he collapse on the ground in need of medical attention.

'Tempted fate'

The father of one signed up for the Army when he was 16 and served with 2 Rifles, seeing active service in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo and Northern Ireland.

He left the Army in December 2010 because he felt he had served in every possible situation and achieved as much as he could for the armed forces.

"If I had continued, I would have been made to return to places where I had already served, which would probably have tempted fate," he said.

The explosion in September 2009 saw the soldier behind Loveday lose both his legs and an arm.

Two months earlier Loveday's best friend, Cpl Jonathan Horne, also of 2 Rifles, died in similar circumstances in a blast in Helmand that killed five British servicemen.

Image caption Loveday will compete under the name of Chosen Man, from the motto of 2 Rifles, his former regiment

"I don't feel guilty for surviving," he said. "The experience has made me what I am today."

It is also carved into his skin in the form of a tattoo, one of which reads: "People sleep peacefully in their beds at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."

But he did not always consider himself a "rough man", recalling how he was bullied at school.

"That's what got me into boxing. I was the short, stumpy kid that used to get bullied until I was 12, when I had this massive growth spurt."

His achievements to date include eight wins from 12 amateur fights and being named 2003 Schoolboy Champion.

He also won a silver in the 2003 Junior Olympics in Louisiana and a bronze in the 2002 Cadet Nations.

Now signed to promoter Frank Warren, Loveday will fight under the name of Chosen Man in honour of his former regiment.

"Chosen Man was our motto. For many are called, but few are chosen," he said.

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