Boxing, High Life,

Rising from The Ned

Jonathan Kumuteo, who competed in the first Fitzdares Fighting Futures boxing event in 2017, tells us how a long fight of a different kind is finally paying dividends for him.

When we launched the Fitzdares Fighting Futures event at The Ned four years ago, it was born out of a passion for grassroots sport; a way to give something back to the sport that our chairman, Balthazar Fabricius, is so passionate about. On the night, eight amateurs lined up for their respective gyms, representing the diverse corners of London’s boxing scene. Under one spotlight was the famous FitzRoy Lodge from Lambeth, another Dale Youth, once located at Grenfell Tower, and Finchley ABC, where a shy heavyweight by the name of ‘AJ’ once honed his skills.

Each fighter at The Ned was not just representing their gym, however, but also a dream. A dream that through hard work, discipline and talent, of course, you can make it to the very top. These guys, they were fighting for their futures, and it was electric. In fact, for one fighter, that night supercharged his passion. Four years later, on 30th April 2021, Jonathan Kumuteo lit up York Hall on BT Sport with a four-round win in front of a small crowd, including famous commentator Steve Bunce.

For Jonathan Kumuteo, it has been an extraordinary road to this point. Disney are unlikely to make an inspirational story about amateur boxing anytime soon, but if they did, there would be worse people to turn to.

As a kid, Kumuteo fled war-torn DR Congo, escaping to Zambia before being woken up by his mother one evening, when he was just eight years old, to make the 12,000 km trip to London. As a fiercely competitive youngster, he attended his first boxing session at age 13 and instantly fell in love with the game. He was hooked. He joined Finchley ABC soon thereafter and made his amateur debut in 2012, gradually climbing the ranks, culminating in a win in the London ABA Championships.


“It was the most difficult year of my life but my strength of mind and competitive spirit allowed me to compete that night”


His amateur career was significantly hampered by Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS), a rare, inflammatory skin condition that threatened to curtail his boxing career entirely. The condition – that affects less than 1% of the UK population – causes painful abscesses and scarring on the skin. It affected him for four years, leading to three operations and many months on the sidelines.

It was in 2016 when Kumuteo was first diagnosed with HS, after an initial operation to drain an abscess on his arm. A second procedure followed a year later, forcing him on the sidelines for eight months to recover. He explains the extent of his incapacity following his second operation, “I couldn’t even wash my face or brush my teeth.”

On the night of the Fitzdares Fighting Futures, he had just returned from his first operation and wasn’t ready to fight, “I had been laid down for eight months and was still taking 16 tablets a day. It was the most difficult year of my life but my strength of mind and competitive spirit allowed me to compete that night.” To be where he is now is even more remarkable when you consider he lost his fight that night. Despite that, he reflects fondly on the evening, “I loved everything about it. It was a great show. I loved it. A beautiful venue at The Ned.”

In May last year, Kumuteo signed with Frank Warren’s Queensbury Promotions agency, one of the biggest operations of its kind in the world. Warren has represented some of the biggest names in the history of boxing, including the likes of Frank Bruno, Ricky Hatton and now, more recently, Tyson Fury, making it the perfect place for Kumuteo to bruise his way through the professional boxing ranks.

2020 was supposed to be the year that Kumuteo’s career took-off, after signing with Queensbury, a live fight was almost certain to follow, or so he thought. Like everything, the pandemic halted his progress, putting the launch of his professional career on hold. He was training three times a day, five times a week, ensuring that he was perfectly prepared for a call up that ultimately never came, not earning a penny in the process.

Kumuteo picked himself up off the canvas, however, taking the positives out of the situation and appreciating the fact that he was – for the first time in four years – fully healthy. As much as it was hard – “the first lockdown was like lockdown four”, Kumuteo says, making it clear that he’d “been there three times prior” following his three operations that left him bed-ridden for months on end.

Kumuteo picked himself up off the canvas, however, taking the positives out of the situation and appreciating the fact that he was – for the first time in four years – fully healthy. As much as it was hard – “the first lockdown was like lockdown four”, Kumuteo says, making it clear that he’d “been there three times prior” following his three operations that left him bed-ridden for months on end.

Despite the troubles of 2020, he even claims, “I actually had some fun last year.” He did indeed. His quick wit and humour left Judge Rinder out for the count when leaving the reality hit TV show with £2,525.09 for damages to his Range Rover following a crash.

Kumuteo could be forgiven for feeling that he’d been dealt a rough hand when you consider what he has gone through. Did he ever consider throwing in the towel? Clearly, the thought never crossed his mind. “I am thankful to myself for staying strong through the tough times.” A strength that has been rewarded with a professional debut and a bright future.

Despite his troubles over the past five years, he wouldn’t change a thing. “I wouldn’t take back this experience. I believe that it is only going to further help me get to the top because I am prepared for what is to come”.

Kumuteo is clearly a different proposition in 2021 after a clinical and well-anticipated first professional win over Dale Arrowsmith. “This time I’m 120%. Mentally, I am so strong, I have taken my game to a whole new level”. We priced him up at 1/100, but even then, that was generous. It was never in doubt. Not in Kumuteo’s mind, not in ours.


“That was a C-minus performance – you’re going to see a much better version of myself next time”


“It wasn’t the best performance, but you could see the gulf in class and skill between me and my opponent – it didn’t require a lot for me to beat him. Ring-rust was evident, but it just goes to show I’m a whole different athlete now”. He elaborates on this, explaining “that was a C-minus performance – you’re going to see a much better version of myself next time”.

A first professional fight and now the shackles are off, right? Not exactly for Kumuteo, who is in no rush. Instead, he reflects on the last five years that he describes as a “hell of a struggle”, whilst taking time to appreciate the fact that he’s achieved “a 10-year dream in having a first professional fight”.

Kumuteo doesn’t take his success for granted, he’s aware that a pro debut is something that “the majority of amateur fighters who walk into a gym will never do” and is now enjoying some reflection time with his family before another gruelling training camp commences.

His contract with Queensbury facilitates him to fight five times a year, something that he fully expects to achieve in 2021 and he hopes to be out next in July, in front of a crowd. The prospect of fighting in front of an audience is extremely important to Kumuteo, to showcase his punching prowess in front of his close friends and family who have supported him throughout his rollercoaster journey.

As for his next opponent, “I let my team handle that, that’s no longer in my hands. I trust that I am in the right place,” under the Frank Warren wing. With regards to his weight category, he currently competes as a middleweight but intends to make the switch down to super welterweight. “I’m a lot faster, a lot stronger at that weight category. That’s where I am at my quickest and most effective”.

Kumuteo is predictably positive with regards to the future. “The only way is up. I’m on a new journey now. My professional debut closes that chapter of struggle”, and onto a new chapter of world domination.

The one thing he wants to achieve most, however, by the time that he hangs up his gloves is to “empower the youth and inspire the next generation.” Kumuteo has clearly not forgotten his roots, describing how he benefited from “lessons that people would pay thousands for” throughout his time at Finchley ABC, learning from some of the “UK’s boxing greats – AJ [Anthony Joshua], Chisora …”. He describes himself as a “sponge, soaking up information” from these champions and he hopes to one day have the same impact on the stars of the future.

Kumuteo is not getting ahead of himself, however. He describes the current phase of his career as “the building stage”, developing his “name, status and confidence”. As for the growing influence of social media in shaping the boxing world, Kumuteo keeps it very simple. Whilst he describes the tool as allowing boxing to become “more accessible”, he is solely focused on himself. He expands on this further.

“As far as I’m concerned – and – forgive me for my language … but I don’t give a f*** what any other fighter is doing. I pay attention to the top dogs in the division … but I am only focused on me, myself and I and being the best version of myself.

So, we shouldn’t expect him to be calling out any fighters on Twitter then? “Until I’m top 3, 4, 5 rated [in the country], I don’t see the point in calling out any fighters. When I get to the levels of Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua – hell yeah – of course I’m going to call people out”.

Ambitious indeed but Kumuteo is no stranger to defying the odds. “On paper, you’d bet against me because it doesn’t really make sense. Three years of inactivity, one due to the pandemic and two years recovering from a very serious operation. Yet, I pretty much came out unscathed”.

His ability to pick himself up off the canvas, figuratively and literally, is sure to serve him well in his quest to the top.

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