“As I got in the ring and my name was announced, you could hear the crowd booing and saying things like ‘look at the little blackie, look at his black skinny legs’, I couldn’t believe it.”
Akeem Ennis-Brown is an undefeated and highly-talented boxer, writes Ollie Young. He is bright and engaging to talk to. He articulates beautifully and radiates positivity as he discusses his career with unfiltered passion.
Ennis-Brown is also a young black man and like many young black men, racism has been present in his life for as long for as he can remember.
“I grew up with a mix of cultures but where I lived was a predominantly white area. I’ve experienced racism from being a young kid to the point where you just accept it as normal but it isn’t and that is something you realise when you get older.”
The Gloucester super-lightweight, known as ‘Riidy’ to those close to him, recalled the occasion he was racially abused in the ring.
“It was in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in England, we drove for hours to get there. In the venue, I was the only black person in there. There was not one single other black person but that didn’t bother me. I had grown up in schools where I was the only black kid – it didn’t phase me, I just wanted to win.
“When I heard them booing and saying what they did, I looked at my coach and he just told me to go out and shut them up. I walked out to the ring and with my first two punches, I knocked my opponent down. I just carried on to take my anger out on him and won the fight.”
The 24-year-old believes there have been other times the colour of his skin has held him back and admitted that boxing has a huge problem with racism.
He said: “There’s loads of racism in boxing. I saw an article the other day that said that it was the most racist sport and on the surface you wouldn’t think that but it really is. I’ve had fights where I didn’t get the decision because my face didn’t fit even if I absolutely battered the other guy. I didn’t make it onto the Great Britain squad, I’m not necessarily saying that’s definitely why but these things do happen. A lot of people bury their head and pretend it doesn’t happen, but there’s loads of racism in the sport.”
He has watched on lately as the rest of the world has thrown its weight behind the Black Lives Matter movement and admits that it is time for a change.
“This has been going on for years. People act like it’s a new thing but it really isn’t. I’m happy that people are standing up and taking notice and all the peaceful protests are great. It’s great that people are trying to make a difference and it’s time we all made a change.”
He is determined to make a difference himself and says that he craves a bigger platform to help inspire people and smash stereotypes.
“I want to show people that I’m above it and I’m better than all of that but at the same time, I want to show not all black people are thugs and are in gangs. I’ll show you it’s different. I’ll show you what black people are really capable of. Let me show you how far one black guy from the street can go.
“I’ve got a platform to inspire the next generation in the West Country but my platform isn’t big enough for what I want to achieve.
“I want to change the world and in one hundred years’ time, I still want to be making a difference.
“I need the biggest platform possible to change things because that’s what I believe I’ve been put here to do. Given the chance, anyone can do so much greatness but in this world, people don’t want to give those chances.”
‘Riidy’ returns to action on September 1 against Phillip Bowes. It will be the third time the two have prepared to get the bout underway, with injury and coronavirus previously getting in the way. The unbeaten fighter will be challenging for the British and Commonwealth titles as he headlines MTK Global’s first behind-closed-doors show.
The bout will be broadcast live on ESPN+ and YouTube channel – IFLTV.