“Do I want to lose my eye?”
It was a question Deion Jumah had to ask himself. Three years ago, he suffered an injury that nearly brought his boxing career to an end.
He had torn his retina. There was a procedure he could have to fix it, but it was still a terrible risk.
“I was very, very close to losing my eye and this surgery that I’m going to have will show you better, but they said, ‘You can’t get hit anymore. You can’t spar anymore, or you’ll lose your eye. ‘ And I had to get a second and third opinion on this statement,” Jumah told air sports.
These were questions he had to face. “Is this all worth it? Do I have anything from this sport worth losing my eye on? The answer back then was no,” he said.
“I thought, am I selfish? Why am I doing this? What for? I don’t understand why I’m doing this, it’s just this selfish pursuit of something I’ve wanted for so long. Is it about the money No, is it about fame or acknowledgment No, it’s something inside.
“Is it some kind of self-validation? Probably. Lots of questions, why am I doing this and should I keep doing it? Is it healthy for me or the people around me? But here I am. I’m still doing it.”
The operation was a success. “If you’re a prude, it was bad,” he said. “You are awake the whole operation. They have a scalpel in your eye. You can see a little bit of everything. You can see different lights, your head is in these braces and they open your eyes with tape.
“My eye is now stronger than a normal person’s eye,” he added. “There’s something called vitreous humor in your eyeball, and in some people this fluid starts to turn jelly.
“The older you get, the more jelly-like it gets. For some people, it happens a little prematurely, like mine. It gets jelly-like and it starts pulling on your retina. So what they did to mine, is that they I’ve taken out all the vitreous humor and replaced it with salt water, so now it doesn’t pull at all. So my eye is essentially less likely to detach than a normal eye that hasn’t been operated on.”
However, he had to fight to recover his boxing license. “Dealing with not being able to fight was much harder than coping with a loss and coping with a loss is difficult,” he explained.
“I had to enter a zone that I had never entered before. Boxing is a zone of determination, but I had to go to places I had never been before.
“I’ve been working on this license for two years.”
He finally got it back. Then came an opportunity he couldn’t refuse – a fight with up-and-coming cruiserweight Richard Riakporhe. “I got that license about two months before I was offered the Riakporhe fight. So you can imagine I wasn’t really training full time,” he said.
“I took it with all my heart, believed it was a sign,” he laughed.
He kept himself free in that race, retiring after a competitive eight rounds with Riakporhe.
“What I asked myself was a big question after so many years out against a formidable opponent, who has played and defeated many of the best British fighters. I believed I would win, I believed I could win, I still believe that I can beat him now,” Jumah said.
“We’ve been training since then. I don’t think we’ve really taken our foot off the gas,” he continued. “It was a nice loss, I knew what I had to work on, physically, mentally, everything.
“It was the best thing that happened to me at such a terrible time in my life.”
Jumah plans to fight his way to the top of the division and, he hopes, an eventual rematch with Riakporhe. On November 27, he will meet another London rival, Mikael Lawal, in a British title fight.
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“I just know that’s not 100 percent the real Deion that” [Riakporhe] fought that night and I think he knows that too and I would love that fight again. So this fight against Lawal is very important because if you’re calling for a rematch, like I will, I feel like the general public needs to see that, okay, this is the real deal,” Jumah said.
“I’m just looking forward to righting my mistakes, doing my best on Fight Night and seeing what’s next.”
While it is unlikely that a rematch of Riakporhe will take place in his near future, if he is victorious, he would be happy to defend a title against another Londoner, Isaac Chamberlain.
“We want the big fights,” Jumah said. “I know Isaac Chamberlain says he wants that fight with me. So I take it.
“It’s a good fight and it’s a fight I’ve wanted for a long time.”
All that hope for the future depends on beating Mikael Lawal on November 27. Jumah has every confidence in it.
“I saw in his last fight that he has no idea what he’s doing against a left-handed opponent. Obviously that will work in my favor not only because I’m a left-hander, but also because of the unorthodox way I move.” he said.
That move saw him come in as a sparring partner for Anthony Joshua as the then heavyweight champion prepared for his first fight against Oleksandr Usyk.
“It was all very conditioned. I think they liked my movement compared to and preparation for Usyk,” he said. “I haven’t been with them since the GB days, so we go way back.”
Jumah was a top amateur, but has had a long, winding journey to finally reach this British title fight.
“I’ve been fighting,” he said, “to get into these positions. Since my amateur days I’ve been a two-time ABA champion. title, I fought a British title eliminator, good opponents by the way, so I’m fighting Sam Hyde in a British title. title eliminator, in Manchester, to get these opportunities.
“Although Lawal is so right, he thinks he deserves these things for no reason. It’s a shame, but he’s going to get what he deserves.
“He’s probably counting on his punching power, but I’m going to show him there’s more than that.”