Unbeaten Londoner, Kofi ‘Poison’ Donker (2-0), counts himself as one of the lucky ones as he fought on Friday, March 14 at the York Hall in what was one of the last boxing events before lockdown was enforced just 10 days later.
The fortunate Plumstead-born puncher, who operates at 140lbs, spoke exclusively to Aqib Tahlat of BBN:
You fought on March 14 against Lee Devine, what was that like? Because it was just as the coronavirus was beginning to spread wasn’t it?
“Some people bought tickets to support me but didn’t actually end up coming because they were worried and didn’t want to be in a big crowd. It could affect shows when boxing returns because people might not want to come out while the virus is still rampant.
“I might have been one of the last boxing shows in the country, the next weekend all the shows got cancelled. We had a show at York Hall on March 14, then the following Saturday there was a Goodwin show, and I had about three friends boxing on it, but that got scrapped.
“I was lucky, that Saturday I boxed was like the last weekend for shows. I’ve been out the ring for 18 months already, so imagine if I didn’t get to box there and then?!”
You beat Lee Devine 40-36 on points in a routine win, how do you find this level of boxing?
“I don’t want to sound big-headed, but I already know at this level I’m superior. My skill set, what I can do, what I bring to the ring, I know is above this level of opponent. Obviously, there’s no point in me just saying it, I’ve got to get in the ring and execute it, got to show your skills, showcase yourself and put yourself out there and do it.
“I have to go through the wheels, so to speak, with these fights and go through the motions, but you do learn certain things. Some of the things you learn is the differences from the amateur game. In the last few years in the amateurs, I was boxing good opponents – a lot of them are now pros – so I know I’m at a higher level than these journeymen, but these guys are skilled, they’re boxing good fighters week in - week out. If you’re not up to scratch, they will find you out.
“You learn how to do the longer rounds; you’ve got to be tighter defensively with the smaller gloves. In the amateurs, you let your hands go to stack up the points, but now it’s about being a little more precise, bringing your hands back and moving your head.
“It’s a business you have to learn as well, you’ve got a lot of friends and family coming to support you and parting with their hard-earned cash, so you’ve got to put on a show. I used to ask my friends to come and watch me in the amateurs which was £5 or £10 a ticket, but now its £40 in the pros, so you’ve got to entertain.”
Your debut was back in 2018 and your second pro fight in 2020; now you will be forced to wait again for your next fight, how do you handle that disappointment?
“Speaking to my manager Steve Goodwin before the fight and he said about getting some momentum going. The last time I spoke to him, just a couple of days after the fight, the earliest he’s thinking, he said, was September, and said he didn’t think boxing would return again until next year. Through the summer, we’ll know a lot more, so guessing we’ll know more in May.
“After my debut, then being out the ring for 18 months, I want to show what I’m about and show people I’m a threat. I’ve just had 18 months out, then I boxed, so I need action because I’m not getting any younger as well.
“My pro debut got pushed back from 2017 to 2018, then I had 18 months out, I wanna’ be active!”
After your own troubled past, spending time at Feltham young offenders institute, do you think boxing can help a lot of these youths that are caught up on the streets in similar situations to yourself as a teenager?
“I think boxing helps when going through a certain transition period from boy to man. If you haven’t got certain aspirations and goals to focus on then boxing can be that focus and give you something to be committed to, to take you away from certain negatives, but you have to want it.
“To be brutally honest, the fact these boys want to get out of trouble is good, but have they got the desire and commitment to boxing to elevate themselves to take themselves away from what they’re involved in? There’s a lot of troubled youths that do boxing, but they don’t run every night, they don’t listen to their coaches, so you have to have that burning desire to do it. If you’ve got desire and commitment to go forward in boxing, then it can definitely be a saving grace.”
Do you think boxing should be taught in schools again?
“I think all sports should be taught in schools. I always heard from people in their 40s and 50s that you had to box in school because it was part of the curriculum, so I think it can help, but all this knife crime, I’m no politician or social worker, but there’s a reason why this is happening, the way society has evolved and what parents can and can’t do and the political correctness.. the backlash is that kids don’t follow rules, they’re out being unruly and fighting each other, out all night on the streets; when you look at the past, it wasn’t like this, prisons weren’t as full, so they need to go back to what they once did.
“In todays society, kids are spoilt and entitled, they can break rules at school and at home because they don’t get disciplined, they’re lazy, and they don’t commit to anything.”
Does your passion and evident love for boxing help to keep you motivated? Who were your boxing heroes growing up?
“I love the sport of boxing! I can go to an amateur show amateur show and sit there on my own and I can watch all 16 bouts and just be engrossed, or I could be sat in the O2 arena and watch world class pros.
“For me, boxers from the 90s and early 2000s, there’ll always be the fighters that I look up to. My coaches like the fighters from the 70s and 80s, because you like your own generation, but I don’t feel them guys as much; I like my era with Ryan Rhodes; Paul Ingle; Prince Naseem; James Toney; Michael Nunn; Robin Reid… sometimes I’ll watch someone very skilled then next I’ll watch a tear-up with a KO merchant!”
Do you believe British boxing is bigger than ever right now? And is this boxing boom advantageous to you at your current level?
“That’s one thing I am very happy about now, I believe there’s more money in it and more business now than ever. 100 per cent, the amount of revenue that Joshua, Fury, Matchroom and the like are all bringing in, it just benefits everyone all over. The TV coverage with Sky, BT, ITV, Channel 5… the sport is everywhere!
“10 years ago, I would talk about boxing and no one would join in or know what I was talking about, now I go into a gym and everyone talks about boxing and knows so much more than before.
“It’s out there more now. When I was a kid there was no social media or YouTube, but now you can find out things about boxing, like things like the different divisions, the weight-cutting, and people would never have heard or known about that stuff before.
“As a boxer, I feel get more respect as an athlete now whereas before people were just clueless to boxing. People like Joshua, where he’s humble, intelligent, a good athlete that conducts himself in right manner, people now believe that boxers aren’t just punchbags, there’s actually skill and science behind it. They know we do all different types of training, and we’re getting a bit more respect and acknowledgement now that people know more of what we do.
“To answer your question, it’s a big, big business, but the money isn’t filtered out correctly, it’s all at one end. Why are pros like me or 10-0 professionals… we all sacrifice just as much but don’t get a share of the cake. I think the average man on the street doesn’t understand this.
“I got a friend who is a semi-pro footballer who only trains twice a week and gets good money. People think all professional boxers get Mayweather money!”
Kofi was first inspired to become a boxer when, aged 10, he saw Mike Tyson in Brixton when he was due to fight Woolwich heavyweight Julius Francis in January 2000.
The enthused youngster started training after that, but soon ran into trouble in his early teens, having mixed with the wrong crowds, something not easily avoided in his part of South London. He was expelled from Crown Woods secondary school in Eltham and found himself locked up in Feltham at 15, which is where he decided that boxing would be his way out.
Kofi enjoyed a successful amateur career, winning 29 from 43 bouts, represented his city of London, competed abroad, and reached the national Novices finals.
He realised his dream of becoming a professional boxer when he signed a three-year management agreement with Goodwin Boxing, winning his debut in September 2018 and is now 2-0 as a pro, hoping to fight next in September... pandemic permitting.
Read his incredible story in full HERE
Follow Kofi on Instagram: @poisonkofi
Follow Kofi on Facebook: Kofi Official Facebook
Kofi would like to thank his sponsors: Thomas Welch & Sons