FIVE years ago Jonathan Francois was watching boxing on TV – but next month he will be competing at the Commonwealth Games for Grenada.
The University of Portsmouth student received a surprise call-up letter a month ago and has been entered into the 69kg category for the Glasgow event.
And the 21-year-old, whose parents are from the Caribbean island, still can’t believe he is going to the championships.
He said: ‘It’s a weird feeling. I can’t quite fathom the scale of it just yet and probably won’t until I go to Scotland.
‘I saw it on the news and thought “I’m going there”. Even a year ago, there was no way I was anticipating this kind of opportunity.’
Francois is club captain at Gym 01 in Fratton, and has only taken the sport more seriously in the past couple of years.
His coach, Wayne Kong-Gardiner, immediately saw his potential and contacted the Grenada Olympic Committee.
They have been monitoring him for the past year and were sent videos of his fights.
Kong-Gardiner said: ‘I’m mega proud. Jonathan’s the most committed boxer I’ve seen. He’s extremely talented.
‘The first time I ever met him, he said: “Just to let you know, I’m not like everyone else, I’m going to be a champion”. He’s had 15 bouts since September and only lost one.
‘They (Grenada Olympic Committee) said he’s better than anyone else they’ve got.
‘I’d like to say thank you to Gareth Johnson and Brian Adams for their support in his boxing.’
Francois, originally from east London, is quite inexperienced compared to the other competitors at the Commonwealths, having only taken up boxing five years ago.
However, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the rising star and he is desperate to take it with both hands.
‘I feel quite honoured to get this opportunity that Wayne has provided me with, I’m really grateful,’ he said.
‘I’m really looking forward to the Commonwealths.’
Francois, who is in his second year studying sports development, explained how he got into the sport and why he enjoys it so much.
‘I had done a lot of sports in secondary school but boxing was never something I really wanted to do,’ he said.
‘I was watching TV and saw a cartoon about boxing so me and my friends went down to a gym.
‘My friends stopped but I kept up with it before university. I had my first two fights and I won both of them, it was such a good feeling.
‘The real thing that gets me going is the winning and feeling satisfied with myself but always wanting to improve.’
Francois was forced to take a year out after his first year at university but said that was ‘a blessing in disguise’ because it allowed him to focus solely on boxing.
He was full of praise for his coach Kong-Gardiner.
‘Wayne’s one of a kind,’ Francois added. ‘He really knows his stuff.
‘I put a lot of trust in whatever he says and how he conducts himself.
‘It’s not just his coaching, he’s taught me the whole dynamic of how amateur boxing works, setting up matches, travelling and preparation.
‘He’s got me this far, he knows a lot of people, he really surprises me sometimes.’