Demarcus Corley swaggered into town yesterday with all the poise and panache of a Washington crooner but behind the Colgate smile and dapper suit is a man of steel.
Growing up on the north east side of DC, young Demarcus came through the school of hardknocks and while he progressed to become one of the best fighters in the world, the neighbourhood was never far away.
That was the tragic case 10 years ago last month when while going through his usual routine in the gym he received a call which floored him with greater force than any right hand from world champions Floyd Mayweather, Miguel Cotto or Marcos Maidana. “It was a Friday, I stopped training and took the call that my brother had been shot and I rushed over to the hospital and he passed away that day,” said Corley, who clashes with Paul McCloskey (pictured) at the King’s Hall on Saturday night in what is effectively a World title eliminator.
“At the time he was World light-welterweight champion but it would be a year before he returned to the ring.
“I have two brothers, Michael Angelo was a drug seller and some guys put out a contract to kill my brother and they got a friend who I went to school with to kill my brother.
“I went to the hospital and he passed away that day. I was hurt, heartbroken, crushed and then it hurt me more to find out that it was a guy in the neighbourhood that we grew up with who had organised it. I saw the shooter recently and I spoke to him, there's nothing I can do to bring my brother back. I forgive him, I have to, it's only right.
“I'm reading a book at the moment, ‘The Secret’, it relates back to the Bible and how Jesus forgave people. It teaches you about loving people. I love Paul and after I knock him out I'll still love Paul.
“My brother was one of the reasons I took up sowing, he made me a uniform to box in but he charged me 150 dollars. I wanted a black velvet outfit and me made it in hour and a half and I watched him and paid him. I thought if he can do I can do it so I learned how to sow and since then if I don't sow what I fight in then I design what I fight in. It's not your normal boxer's hobby!”
Inside the ring the 37-year-old has never had an easy life. Unlike some who are taken by the hand and wrapped in cotton wool by promoters, Corley has always done it the hard way.
“I took a fight at five days notice and that’s when I won my world title, I’m always in the gym,” adds the road warrior who has fought in every major boxing corner of the world.
“My style of fighting is very dangerous... other promoters don't want to take a chance against a fighter like me, who's crafty and has power. I have to take fights in the other guy’s backyard and I’ve had some very tough decisions.
“People were saying that because I had lost six straight fights that I was too old and that’s why the last guy Gabriel Bracero took me, he was unbeaten and I beat him.
“I don’t worry about the decision on Saturday night because I looked at Paul's performance against Prescott and he makes a lot of mistakes and me being a veteran it's only right that I capitalise on those mistakes.
“It’s down to me to capitalise on the mistakes I know that he's going to make.
“I've done 80 rounds of sparring to make sure this doesn't go the distance on Saturday night, it can't go the distance.”
Indeed, such is Corley’s confidence that he is prepared to gamble with £2,000 of his own money.
“I’m saying if there is anybody out there who will take the bet I’m prepared to put £2,000 on myself,” he said. “They have him at 9-1 on and me at 6-1 against and I know that I’m going to win on Saturday night.”