In his late 20s, Jayde Mitchell was 178 centimetres tall, working flat out running a concreting business, and weighed in at 130 kilograms.
Six years later the Melbourne-based boxer is a svelte 76 kilograms and looking to build on a career record that stands at 20 wins, one loss, with 10 knockouts.
Jayde Mitchell at training this week.Credit:Simon Schluter
If he can beat Hungarian fighter Istvan Szili in Melbourne on Saturday night in a bout for the vacant WBO Oriental super middleweight title at St Kilda Town Hall, he could catapult himself into the world top 10, giving him the chance for serious money.
It has been a remarkable turnaround for a man who fought as an amateur when young but gave up for years after disillusionment set in with "boxing politics".
At 28 he decided to try again in the pro ranks, with his father, Len, as his trainer.
Mitchell returned, having ballooned into a figure that resembled a "balloon with eyes and a mouth". He knew he was taking a huge gamble, especially as he was making good money from the concreting business.
Jayde Mitchell with former world heavyweight championship contender Earnie Shavers in 2012 in Las Vegas.
"I cut out all the carbs and just ate lean meat and vegetables. Basically, if you couldn't grow it or kill it, it was out – no processed foods at all."
Mitchell said he knew he could make a go of things early in his second stab at the sport when he went to Los Angeles to spar and train at famous trainer Freddie Roach's Wild Card gym, where Roach has trained top-level boxers such as Miguel Cotto, Amir Khan, Julio Cesar Chavez jnr and eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao.
"I did well when I got there and it gave me a lot of self-belief. I knew that I could take it seriously, be a contender for a title," he says.
That belief was reinforced after his toughest moment came in 2017 when he sustained a serious vertebrae injury in the first round of a contest against Chinese boxer Ainiwaer Yilixiati, effectively fighting 10 rounds with a broken neck and still winning.
The only blemish on his record came in 2017 in his sixth fight, when he lost a majority decision to the now-retired Melbourne boxer Ryan Breese.
"That was a big shock for me at the time, but maybe it was what I needed then to make me realise I had to really focus," Mitchell says with the benefit of hindsight.
As a boxer, Mitchell is well aware of the growing concerns about chronic traumatic encephalophy in other sports, recently highlighted by the CTE diagnosis to AFL legend Graham “Polly” Farmer.
"It’s something I definitely think about," he said. "My father has been my coach, and he always told me one punch you take now is one less you can take later in your career, so I try to avoid punishment.
"He told me not to get involved in wars, not to stand in the trenches, to fight smart. I have been around boxing all my life and seen a lot of fighters change, so I definitely am aware of it all.
"It’s mandatory now for us to get our brains scanned before a fight to pick up any bruising or abnormalities, which is a good thing."
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