A Day In The Life Of An Ex-Boxer

A Day In The Life Of An Ex-Boxer


From 1999 to 2005, Johnny Nelson was cruiserweight champion of the world. No man has ever held that title for longer. Today, Johnny is a Sky Sports boxing pundit and, at 53, has just launched an online fitness programme for men of all ages. We caught up with him just as he was looking forward to this weekend’s big Tyson Fury fight...
Photography Ryan Byrne/Inpho/Shutterstock

Home is… Sheffield. I’ve lived here all my life and now live in a little village called Renishaw. It’s close enough to the M1 that I can get down to London for shows, but also far enough away that I have peace and quiet. After a busy show, I love nothing more than getting home, switching my music on and locking the door.
In the morning I’m… up early, usually around 6am. I let my dog Geoffrey outside – he’s a British bulldog and snores like a trooper. Then I’ll grab a coffee and head straight to the gym. When I was boxing, wake-up time was more like 5am, but the routine hasn’t changed.

The most unusual place I’ve started my day is… Saudi Arabia last year for Anthony Joshua’s fight with Andy Ruiz. It was brilliant to see him win and crowned two-time world champion.

I work out… in the gym almost every day. I train at S20 Physique, where my trainer Ryan Dack is brilliant. He’s an ex-martial arts competitor and really knows what it’s like to go from professional athlete to retiring and still wanting to keep your body in the best shape possible. The culture at his gym is very much like it was when I was boxing – great bunch of friends, serious work ethic but really inclusive.
My gym routine looks like… Monday is leg day. Tuesday is upper body, back and shoulders. Wednesday – if I’m not filming in London – is shoulders and arms. Thursday’s cardio. Friday is back and legs again, but a lighter session than earlier in the week. Saturday morning, I get the boys together and we spar at my old gym – Ingle Gym in Sheffield.

Right now… I’m launching my online fitness programme, which is designed to make fitness more accessible to men of all ages. I’ve had a few injuries over the years – most recently a hip replacement – so I know it can be quite challenging coming back from an injury, both mentally and physically. It’s easy to get frustrated with your body too, so the programme touches a lot on changing your technique, listening to your body and doing the fitness regime that works for you and your body now – not getting caught up with what you could or couldn’t lift 20  years ago!
Back in the day... a pre-fight meal would consist of something really light like chicken and veg. Even though I’m retired, I’m still strict with my calories. For lunch, I will eat a pre-prepared meal of chicken, fish or turkey with vegetables. It’s usually around 600 calories. When I’m in London, I’ll head to Brixton market and Brick Lane for great chicken or there’s a really nice little café in Battersea Park that does great breakfasts. The Royal Oak pub in Marylebone does a brilliant roast – that’s where I’ll head if I’m in town on a Sunday. My favourite place to grab a quick evening bite is an independent Caribbean place about 15 minutes’ drive from where I live. I’m lucky as I get to travel a lot, so get to eat at some great places. More than anything though, I like cooking at home – especially for my daughters.
When I feel like a treat... I grab a Mr Kipling Cherry Bakewell. My week in food is a bit like Groundhog Day in some ways. Dinner is a prepped meal of chicken, fish or turkey with veg – often around 600 calories to match my lunch. On a Sunday, I might go out for a roast with my daughters.
For a night out I would… go to a gig. I recently discovered Luke Burr and he’s brilliant live. He’s only doing small venues at the moment which makes it even better. I’m not much of a boozer but there’s a really nice pub, the Coach & Horses, just down the road from Nobu in Mayfair. It’s just a normal pub, the staff are really nice and it’s relaxed. I’ll usually go for a glass of red over a pint. Although I’ve recently discovered whisky and ginger, so I might order one of those.

The most exciting part of my job is… show days – from arriving at the venue and soaking up the buzz to watching the fight. We have a brilliant team at Sky Sports Boxing and there’s a lot of banter amongst us. If the fight’s on the Saturday night, we’ll be there for the weigh-in on Friday, then Saturday is spent prepping and checking in with each other, as we’re all responsible for working together to bring the fights to a global audience. Fight night is always a late finish, so I’ll head home on Sunday and go straight to bed.
For most shows I’ll wear... a suit from Owen Scott Bespoke. They usually make me four or five bespoke suits each year. I particularly like a three-piece number. I get my shirts from Tailored Athlete as they do extra-large sizes to suit people of my build. They’re brilliant and fit really well. For a workout, I’ll wear Under Armour and Nike trainers. I love a tracksuit, which means I’m usually in gym gear throughout the day.
I am currently working on… the upcoming boxing fixtures. March and April are really busy for the sport, so I’m really looking forward to the lineup ahead. This weekend, it’s the big one: Tyson Fury’s rematch with Deontay Wilder in Vegas. In their first fight, Tyson was clearly the better boxer, but it was also obvious Wilder was one of the best heavyweight punchers. Now I’d say he’s the best. I fancy Tyson on points this time. But, if Tyson doesn’t win on points, then he’s been KO’d by Wilder.
My worst day at work… happened when I was fighting – and lost. I lost most of my early fights. I never wanted to be a boxer. I just followed my brother to the gym because I wanted to make friends. I had no natural boxing talent but a brilliant trainer and mentor – Brendan Ingle – who is the man who made me world champion. He was a true inspiration to me and I learnt a lot from him, both in and out of the ring. He taught me a lot about human nature. He passed away last year, but there are a lot of lessons that I still repeat today. He was a good man.
My proudest moment… was becoming world champion. I shocked everyone, but it was down to sheer discipline and determination. Nowadays I feel very lucky to work at Sky Sports because I get to be part of my sport every day. I love boxing, have made brilliant friends as a result, and still get to mentor people coming into the sport today. Boxing has an incredible community and I’m honoured to be part of it.
When I was little I thought I would be... a dancer. That’s as far as my mum was concerned anyway – she didn’t know I was going to boxing with my older brother because I told her I was going to dance classes.
Johnny’s online fitness programme is available from 1st March


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