“If I wasn’t a boxer I wouldn’t be doing anything positive,” Ohara Davies says in his incongruently sweet voice. “I’d be dead or in prison.”
Ohara Davies, 25, is a natural boxer. He turned professional after only 17 amateur boxing bouts. Last week, the Hackney-born boxer secured a third-round technical knockout and retained his WBC silver title, beating Liverpudlian Derry Mathews, who described him as “very good” and “the better man”.
Ohara has lived in Homerton his whole life, and tells me about his tough upbringing in North East London. He still lives in the area and hopes to help others fight the cycle of poverty and crime in Hackney by inspiring kids to stay off the streets.
Hackney has the third highest crime rate of any London Borough – coming only second to touristy Westminster and neighbouring Islington. In January 2017, there was an incident of gun crime every two days in the borough and Ohara believes that boxing saved him from a life of crime.
“Boxing saved me. My coach saved me. Before I got into boxing, I was on the wrong path, I was involved in gangs”. Ohara was expelled from school and charged with gross bodily harm at 16. “My life was on a downward spiral,” he said.
Ohara’s life changed when when he met East London Coach Tony Cesay, who trained him in Canning Town. “He took me to see fighters such as Audley Harrison and Amir Khan. It was so inspiring”.
The boxer is transparent about his tough upbringing, telling me as a kid he often made fake bus tickets just to get to the gym to train. “I know I don’t want to go back to that lifestyle. Boxing is the wind in my pipes. The only way to not go back to that is to keep going, and I just love to fight,” he says. “It gets out all my anger and aggression. I get to spar other people in the ring. Since I’ve started I’ve always wanted to get better.”
“I still live in Homerton, a lot of people know me and know I’m in reach. I want to inspire and give advice, whether it be football or music I want young people to find their thing and help them get out. I always want to be local and never out of reach. Growing up in Homerton, you either get into sports or music or go to prison”.
Despite still living in central Hackney, Ohara’s life is a far cry from what it once was, often jet-setting across the globe and sharing glamorous shots of himself on Instagram. His favourite place to travel in Germany – drastically different from rowdy North London. “The crowd are different [to the UK] no one is drinking, they’re more reserved and not too noisy.”
Ohara hopes that young people in Homerton can “find their passion” the way he did with boxing. “Find something you love and stick to it. Focus all your energy into something you love. Let it take up all your time. Boxing ate up all my time so I had no time to go on the streets. It will pay off. Just be patient and consistent.” His hard work and strength shine through as he talks to me from his Essex-based gym. After all his nickname is two-tanks because “he never gets tired”. “The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is ‘Life’s too short to be anything but selfish.’”
Ohara tells me “I don’t let anything get in the way of my training. I cancel everything to train. I’m so focused. The best bit about being a pro-boxer is never having to be sat in an office. To release energy and fight and run on adrenalin.”