Jonathan Kumuteo: Boxer on 'draining' wait to make professional debut

By Miriam Walker-KhanBBC Sport
Jonathan Kumuteo
Jonathan Kumuteo will fight out of Finchley amateur club

This was supposed to be Jonathan Kumuteo's breakthrough year in boxing.

In May, he signed with leading promoter Frank Warren and a live televised fight should have followed.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic pushed that back and, nearly eight months later, he is yet to make his professional debut.

Kumuteo trains three times a day, five days a week, hoping the call will come because he "hasn't made a penny this year".

He says a skin condition that led to him needing skin grafts has given him the patience required to get through a year like no other.

'My bank account is angry with me'

Kumuteo turned 25 on 5 November - the day England went into its second national lockdown.

That month, the government announced £300m of emergency funding for sports in England impacted by the absence of spectators because of coronavirus. Boxing was not on the list.

Kumuteo, who has been boxing for eight years, told BBC Sport: "You only get paid when you fight and I made a financial sacrifice to chase my dreams."

Born during a civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kumuteo moved to Zambia with his family when he was four, and then to London three years later.

"Coming from the background I come from, [my family] don't understand how professional sports work," he said.

"I even had family members saying to me: 'If you haven't boxed all year, why can't you just go to a job?'

"But I have to be prepared to my best capabilities and that means I can't work alongside training three times a day, five days a week.

"People see that I'm verified on Instagram and Twitter and think I'm fine, but I haven't earned anything this whole year. I'm entering the new year earning zero pounds.

"My bank account is angry with me."

'Mentally, it's draining'

Kumuteo says he has been "fight-ready" since March. He will fight out of Finchley amateur club - once home to British heavyweights Anthony Joshua and Derek Chisora.

"My biggest frustration has been staying in camp throughout the year," said Kumuteo.

"There are big sacrifices that come with that. You put so much in and get nothing out.

"Mentally, it's draining. Every decision I made, I had to ask myself: 'Can I be ready to box in three weeks if I get a call today?' I even feel guilty for being up at 11pm.

"My worries are entering my sleep and I'm waking up stressed."

'I'm so grateful because I'm healthy'

Kumuteo says he has felt "a lot of disappointment" in 2020, adding: "I constantly remind myself I just have to adapt."

That is something life has prepared him for.

In 2014, aged 19, he developed an abscess the size of a golf ball on his armpit. He boxed on, but eventually had to go to hospital, where it was drained.

The operation left him with a 4cm-deep wound that he had to have repacked every day in hospital. It took six weeks to heal, but for a year it continued to reopen.

In 2016, while training for the National Novice Championships, Kumuteo was diagnosed with a rare, chronic skin condition called hidradenitis suppurativa,external-link which affects 1% of the UK population.

He had to wear dressings for two years because the lesions bled and doctors told him he would not box again unless he had skin grafts.

After his second operation in 2017, Kumuteo spent eight months recuperating.

A third operation - in November 2018 - was, in his words, "major". He had the sweat glands under both of his arms removed, to be replaced with skin from his buttocks. It took him three months to recover.

"On New Year's Eve in 2016, I was severely ill," said Kumuteo. "I lay in bed all day and watched everyone having fun on social media.

"I was really upset because I couldn't even get out of bed - I felt stagnant.

"Fast forward four years, I compare the two circumstances and I'm so grateful because I'm healthy. Those experiences prepared me for times like this.

"For me, finally fighting is like the end of the beginning."

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