“Growing up in Brixton was hard. You had to be tough or you would get walked over.”
When boxer Isaac Chamberlain talks about his upbringing, there is menace in his words. After all, Chamberlain is a born fighter.
The 22-year-old cruiserweight is emerging as one of Britain’s brightest young talents in the ring, with his unpredictability, burning desire to succeed and raw emotion making him a growing favourite amongst fans.
But these characteristics were developed on the troubled streets of south London.
“I never had any big brothers, so I had to fight nearly every day so that people would leave me alone,” he recalls. “From a young age, I grew up fighting in school and on the streets. Boxing gave me a way out of all that.”
Not calling it quits
His most recent fight, at the end of September at Bethnal Green’s York Hall, provides a good snapshot of the man known to his fans as ‘Chambo’.
His sixth professional bout was against Wadi Camacho, a 31-year-old from Canning Town, who in the pre-fight trash talk had promised to bury his opponent.
Chamberlain was already on the backfoot even before his right shoulder went, and from that point he struggled and could barely raise his arm as Camacho took advantage.
But somehow he overcame the injury and fought back to win his biggest title so far, the Southern Area Championship. He hopes this is just the start of things to come.
“The victory felt good, but I want more than this,” admits Chamberlain.
“I knew I could do it because I’d thought of it a million times in my head. It made me hungry for more success and glory.”
Sparring with Wilder
In his short career so far, the cruiserweight has trained and sparred with some of the biggest names around.
But Chamberlain says it was a month in Alabama with WBC heavyweight champion Deontay ‘The Bronze Bomber’ Wilder ahead of his 2015 pro debut that was most instructive.
“I learnt how a champion prepares and trains,” he says.
“The team he has around him is incredible. To have a champion and win fights is a team effort as they are all working hard to help the contender win the title. It was like a tight-knit family.”
‘Straight Outta Brixton’
Chamberlain, also nicknamed ‘The King’, starred in Sky Sports’ documentary ‘Straight Outta Brixton’ which focused on his troubled childhood and how boxing transformed his life.
He said he was keen to show how his upbringing had changed his attitude.
“Going back to my roots showed how far I have come,” he adds.
“I’ve always been the type to look forward, never back. My upbringing and journey showed the perseverance I had when I was growing up and how tough I must have been.”
Under the guidance of his uncle and trainer Ted Bambi, Chamberlain has flourished.
Training alongside heavyweights such as Dillian Whyte at Miguel’s Gym in Brixton, he has received expert advice to keep him on the right track. Despite his tough training regime, Chamberlain says Bambi has been crucial to his development.
“I learnt the meaning of hard work with Ted,” he says.
“He pushes me to the limit nearly every training session but also teaches me a lot about the business and life itself.
He’s so hard on me because he doesn’t want me to make the same mistakes he did.”
Chamberlain also says that being around a character like Whyte every day means there is never a dull moment.
“Dillian is a crazy guy but also fun to be around. We used to take the bus home from training together and he would always say he was going to fight Anthony Joshua again after their amateur bout early on in their careers. And he did.”
‘No easy fights’
Signed to Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom stable, so far Chamberlain has a record of six wins and no defeats.
He says his manager has been an important figure in his professional development.
“Eddie has influenced my career a lot,” he says. “My career’s been different from other boxers because I’ve never had any easy fights and my record shows that.
“When I’m a champion, I’ll know what it’s like to go deep in a fight and take someone’s heart in the ring. I’ve been through the hard fights before, so I know what it takes to dig in.”
An admirer of former three-weight world champion James Toney, Chamberlain has set his sights high, and the likeable character is not only hoping to reach the top in his profession but also inspire youngsters to follow in his footsteps.
“I want to make my mark in boxing like the old school fighters such as James Toney. I hope to show my the sheer guts and grit to match my skills”
“My advice to anyone facing hardship in life is never give up, no matter how hard it gets,” he insists.
“There will be low times, but it will all pay off. I hope to continue to provide support and the right advice whenever I speak at my local youth club.
“I’d love to fight for the WBC world title at some point in my career. Hopefully, I can become a future Hall of Famer but that’s only once I have defeated some of the top names and unified the division and ensured that I am the best UK cruiserweight to have ever stepped in a ring.
“I want to make my mark in boxing like the old school fighters such as James Toney. I hope to show my the sheer guts and grit to match my skills.”