Finding a hero in Brixton

By Cain Bradley on February 19, 2019
Finding a hero in Brixton
Often boxers talk, and they do not say much. It is a habit of all people, not just boxers.

“Whatever the trials and tribulations are, when you feel like giving up, that hero in you can overcome that, you gotta find that hero in you…”

“A hero is someone who, in spite of weakness, doubt or not always knowing the answers, goes ahead and overcomes anyway.”—Christopher Reeves

“Don’t look any further than your own reflection for a hero.”—Allyson Partridge

The story is so commonplace in boxing that’s it’s almost played out. A troubled teen turns to boxing, where his talent helps him to escape his surroundings and thrive. Kheron Gilpin finds a way to make his version of that story different and given his charisma and boxing ability, could be a future star of British boxing.

Often boxers talk, and they do not say much. It is a habit of all people, not just boxers. Some people say things in a way that make you listen and buy in completely. Kheron is one of those people, incredibly engaging, and has a way with words that can at times remind you of a young Muhammad Ali. After a half hour of talking with me, he goes into a speech with the passion and energy that I came to realize personifies Kheron. Talking about his previous life, he told me, “I got out of it by making a vow that I’m the one, I was sent, I am the only one. Based upon my position, based upon my character, based upon my will, based upon my opportunities, based upon my relationships, based upon who I am, I am the one that’s to break the chain of poverty in my family. It’s no one else’s responsibility but mine, I understood that, I accepted that and started to act on that and from that point, everything changed.” It’s a speech that has me captivated, his voice rising in volume and tone at all the right times. He has me utterly transfixed. For most, it’d be lip service, coming from Kheron, I believe every word.

When I walk into the gym, Miguel’s in Brixton, he is finishing up pads with coach Mike Burton as coach Granville (also known as G) looks on. It was a far cry from a few years earlier when G refused to speak to him. That happened as Kheron returned to the gym he had trained for a couple of years as a teenager. Like many, he had stopped training as he got in with the wrong crowd and was prioritizing the wrong things. He would periodically return to the club between those two stints and would constantly hear, “you were so talented,” and a “waste of time.” Kheron describes it as “banter, but daunting.” So, when he returned to the gym, for real this time, the coaches “didn’t care.” Kheron had to prove himself in the gym. “G don’t listen to nothing. You have to speak to him through actions. G didn’t even look at me for weeks.”

Perhaps he would have had more faith if he understood the transition that Kheron had gone through in life. He had developed from the real street corner kid, into someone with a purpose. The days of being around negative influences and being exposed to drugs and gang violence were gone, replaced by a focus on growth and personal development, as Kheron turned his life around. Kheron describes himself as having always been a nice youth, a leader who was misunderstood as big bad guy because he got into fights. Now he only fights in the ring. It’s something he does very well. He’s 17-1 with numerous stoppages along the way. It’s not that he’s been fighting bums, Kheron has won the Haringey Box Cup and the National Developments, as well as representing London, proving himself to be one of the brightest talents on the scene. He was recently ranked fifth in the Heavyweight division in England and is hoping to make a big impression in his first Elite Championships in April.

Even when he was young, Kheron terms himself as a leader and someone who would push and motivate his friends. That is something he has carried through life with him and when he finishes doing pads with Mike he is straight over to Ella Harris, recently crowned Class B development champion, to put an arm round her shoulder and offer her some encouragement and praise on her recent achievements. Even when I’m interviewing him, young teammate Adam, who Kheron tells me to keep an eye on, comes over for some words of wisdom. As always, Kheron is generous with his time for teammates, who he describes as “family.” Kheron tried to help everyone though, not just his teammates. He describes it as a transition where his mindset changed. “I became aware of the possibility that exists not only for me but for others. The possibility to grow, the possibility become a better version of us. That motivated me to share the info that help shape my belief system.” Kheron now walks with a passion; to help people tap into their potential

It started with his music, Kheron set up Live Love Talent as a way of helping emerging artists, using the lessons he has learned from when he was exploring his musicianship. He pointed to the vibe at the boxing gym, something that is lacking in the musical world. Himself an artist, Kheron begun to use it as a platform to talk, spreading his message. In his own words “I’d go there, shell it. Tear it up, stop the music and start a motivational speech.” He describes it as the “realest talk,” to the point where he’d often lose himself in the speech. Kheron enjoyed sharing words of encouragement with his audiences, which only saw him grow more comfortable with talking in front of large crowds. “I had a message and was at the same time inspiring my friends.” Soon, alongside a mentor, he went into a school to do his first talk. “The response was crazy. I just started doing more and more. Word of mouth, like fire, just spread.”

There was a picture which circulated after Kheron won gold at the 2018 Haringey Box Cup. He was hollering at seemingly anyone who would listen, apparently telling them “I am the greatest.” In that picture he suddenly bore a strong resemblance to one of his idols, Muhammad Ali. It’s a link which brings a smile to his face. Like Ali, he has a big, beaming smile which belies the damage he can do with his fists. He tells me that “me and Ali are cut from the same cloth. So much in common: physical features, charisma, consideration of others, character, great looks, volume, it’s all there.” Like most he considers Ali more of an inspiration, because of what he did outside the ring. Inside the ring, he lists Sugar Ray Robinson, Oleksandr Usyk, Vasyl Lomachenko and Joshua Buatsi as boxers he likes. Buatsi is someone he has sparred, featuring in a list that includes Anthony Yarde and Dillian Whyte. Whyte trains out of the same gym, along with Isaac Chamberlain and Richard Riakporhe. He considers them friends, people he can call. He tells the story of sparring with Dillian Whyte as a junior, when Dillian asked if he’d had a fight. Kheron responded with no which made Dillian respond with “I should spit in your face bruv.” The relationship still has that banter, Dillian “shows man love, like a big brother to me and everyone around him.”

The professionals that he gets to be around would be considered mentors by Kheron. It is a word that he says a lot. He is a mentor to many and believes strongly in peer mentoring and “each one, teach one,” is a mantra that he repeats. He was made team captain before his first bout, although he claims it was a role he already held in all but name. Many of his fields of interests see him engage in a mentorship role. He also speaks of many mentors, that have helped him on his journey. His local youth club, Salmon Youth Club, “played a valuable part in my personal development and was where I started volunteering to help young people in the community.” Like school, he had people who believed in him and people who didn’t. He also had a wide array of mentors in various walks of life. “I’m a great listener and I’m a keen student.  I can learn from anyone. I’ll sit at your feet, be humble. I learnt wisdom from some people that were even lost themselves.” Without those mentors in his life, who knows where Kheron would have been today. “They made it okay for me to ask for help, I come from a place where people don’t like asking for help. I was confident in my ignorance, like I would say, I don’t get that shit.” Kheron is incredibly passionate, especially when it comes to improving himself.

He is happy with the person he is now and appears to be excited about the person he continues to become. He follows his passions; helping people tap into their potential and pushing his talents in the boxing ring. Boxing for him is not only something he enjoys, but a means to gain a greater platform. “Greater platform is greater influence and with greater influence, I can do more. I don’t just think of me when I fight.” He speaks of eventually turning professional, citing Isaac and Dillian as examples that let him see how the pros live although did not put a timeframe on it. First though, he would like to get some international experience. He is unsure as to whether his style matches up to what England wants, but “would love to be considered.” He was born in Jamaica, like Dillian Whyte, and has been encouraged to explore the option of boxing for Jamaica. He does note “time is against me. Time to start building up.” He admits his age after the interview, but I’m sworn to not include it, Kheron claiming “I don’t identify with that age.”

Unsurprisingly, he is already a ticket seller and at the professional level, I believe he would manage to sell tickets easily. He has the potential to be a big draw, something that would help Kheron on what he describes as a “war against poverty.” A number of dramatic events in his life, he believes, happened because of poverty. He vowed “I’m gonna break that chain of poverty in my family.”

He describes it as the “core reasons why people sell drugs, people get caught up in stuff, people lose their lives.” In a time when young people are dying in London at a horrific rate, it is a message that really hits home. “Everything that’s poverty driven, that’s where my war’s at. Poverty isn’t just financial, but about mindset. Fight against an impoverished mindset, situations, lifestyle and way of living.”

Kheron calls it his “hero instinct.” He wants to help everyone through his actions. Even after our interview, through his playful smirk, he tells me that we can have a relationship akin to Muhammad Ali and Michael Parkinson. His core message when he gives his speeches is simply, “find the hero in you.” It is a simple message, but one that not enough people listen to. He describes it as being on a journey on self discovery. Finding the strength in him which he describes as the hero within. He gives me a curious look, before stating, “I have hero in my name.” When I throw a confused look at him, he spells out “k-H-E-R-O-n.” He literally found the hero in his name and has looked to live up to that ever since. The unique spelling of his name is of African roots, his name meaning “the successful one.” He is determined to be the successful one and encourages “whatever the trials and tribulations are, when you feel like giving up, that hero in you can overcome that, you gotta find that hero in you. Whatever you are going through, there’s a hero within.” Enrique Iglesias joke.

Kheron embodies that message. He has fought his way out of many difficult situations, turning it into a positive and has made a vow to use his platform to inspire others to rise above their circumstance. Kheron has the ability to entice and inspire, not only in the ring where his record of 19-1 and titles speak for themselves but, with his sheer charisma and presence in his everyday life. When he speaks you listen and I am absolutely sure that, like his name suggests, he will be successful. Keep an eye out for the young South Londoner with the big mouth and beautiful smile (according to himself).

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