By David Nagel
Just one week of training with a world champion transformed Mitchell Leek’s mindset and inspired him to become an undefeated professional boxer on the rise.
The Nar Nar Goon local, who took up boxing to improve his fitness and build resilience for a promising football career, had his first amateur bout at the end of 2016.
He would continue to box through 2017, mixing his boxing and football careers, but at the end of that year he would not only lose a fight – but his love for boxing as well.
“That was the turning point because I was taking my boxing seriously but I wasn’t enjoying it anymore,” Leek, 21, said.
It was at this point that his dad John – a former amateur boxer and renowned horse trainer – would reach out to one of the most recognisable boxing coaches in Australia, Glenn Rushton, who had superstars in Jeff Horn and Dennis Hogan in his camp.
“Dad did that because I had fallen out of love with boxing but he could see I had something there to work with,” Leek said.
“That was an unbelievable experience; going from a backyard gym to training with two of the best boxers in the country was a real eye opener.”
Rushton’s training sessions are famously brutal, and Leek saw this first hand and from very close range.
“I was only there for just over a week but we did three sessions a day and worked our bums off,” Leek remembers.
“Just seeing what it took to get to the top level really stuck with me, and that was around the time when Jeff fought Manny Pacquiao. It was at that stage that I thought ‘this is what I want to do.”
Leek returned to Melbourne with renewed enthusiasm for the sport and joined Team Ellis Boxing, run by Jake Ellis, the son of five-time world champion Lester Ellis.
He travels to Keilor four to five times a week to work with Team Ellis on his craft.
“I don’t mind because it’s the best gym with the best coaches and it gives me the best opportunity to keep improving,” he said.
“It’s not easy, because I also have a horse-breaking business so I have to be up riding trackwork at 3.30 in the morning at Pakenham, and then it’s off to boxing after that.
“But I’m not complaining, that’s what I need to do to keep things moving.”
Leek’s schedule would exhaust most, but it is definitely working, with the promising middleweight, super-middleweight currently standing with a perfect three-nil professional record.
He made his successful pro-debut at Melbourne Pavilion on November 15, 2019.
He then defeated John Ake in Queensland in late November last year after moving to the Sunshine State with his partner Lauren Walker to escape the lingering effects of Covid-19.
He then stopped Christopher French in the fourth round of their March 20 bout this year at the Melbourne Pavilion.
Leek next steps into the ring on Saturday, 5 June to take on an as yet unknown opponent.
Those first three wins have given him a taste of where he wants to settle in the sport.
“I want to go all the way and make it on the world stage,” Leek said with confidence.
“I’m a relatively late starter, so don’t have the amateur grounding of other boxers, but I’m determined to keeping ticking the boxes and working my way through the ranks.
“That first trip to Queensland made me realise it’s not easy, it’s bloody hard work, but it’s good and I want it badly.
“If you’ve trained hard and put the hard work in you just feel confident and take things as they come. When you step into the ring…that’s the fun time.”
Leek said he has been amazed by the ongoing support of the local community, support from his time at the racing club and stints with the Nar Nar Goon, Buln Buln, Kooweerup and Hatherleigh football clubs.
Leek played for Hatherleigh in South Australia in 2019 and was set to return last year until the effects of Covid kicked in.
“That’s seriously one of the best things about my boxing, that I have such great support behind me and I think there’s roughly 150 people coming to this fight just to support me,” Leek said.
“People from the racing club, the footy club’s I’ve played for, all my supporters…they give me total support and it makes a huge difference and makes boxing all the more enjoyable.
“And I’d like to thank Julien Welsh, he’s been a great supporter of mine and has just come on as a sponsor which makes it a lot easier with training and things like that.”