Francis feels ready for his big comeback
Dean Francis wants it to be known he is deadly serious about his latest ring comeback.
When the former British and European super middleweight champion announced his decision to box again three-and-a-half years after announcing his retirement, sceptics could have been excused for thinking here was just another washed up old fighter seeking to revive the glory days of his youth.
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But Bristol-based Francis, now 39 and campaigning at light heavyweight, knows in his own heart he can still scale the heights required to realise his boyhood ambition of boxing for a version of the world title.
The reason? His return to full fitness after being inactive for so long has been achieved the hard way. At the point in February this year where Francis finally called time on booze and boredom, he tipped the scales at 15-and-a-half stone, the heaviest he had ever weighed in his adult life.
While taking a break from training at the Bristol Boys Gym in St Agnes, born-again boxer Francis said: "I was piling on the weight and feeling utterly disillusioned with life outside of boxing.
"I decided I had to do something to try to get back into shape, so I decided to go for a run.
"But I weighed over 15 stone and I was wondering to myself 'can I really do this'? That first time I hit the streets was one of the hardest things I have ever done – I felt terrible."
Yet, one thing led to another and, slowly but surely, Francis regained cardiovascular fitness and, with it, the confidence to return to the gym.
"I didn't have any plan to fight again and I was quite happy earning money teaching others to box. But then I started working out in the gym with the other fighters and I got to thinking 'why not give it another go?'
"Because I've had to start from scratch and get fit the hard way, I know I'm not kidding myself. I've run six miles five days a week ever since February and I'm feeling better than I have in years. When I told Chris Sanigar (manager and trainer) that I wanted to give it another go, he doubted me and I don't blame him for it.
"But he's seen how hard I've worked and the sacrifices I've made and I think I've convinced him that I still have a lot to offer.
"I understand others will take a lot of convincing, but Chris knows I'm serious and he's with me all the way."
Having declared he would never fight again after suffering an ignominious first-round stoppage defeat at the hands of John Keeton in a Prizefighter event semi-final in London in May 2009, Francis will make his comeback when he meets Justyn Hugh for the vacant International Masters light heavyweight title in Newport on Saturday, December 1.
Ever the realist, he describes the contest as "an acid test".
He said: "People will be looking closely to see if I am as good as I used to be. But I am the only one who will really know.
"Win or lose, if I don't feel right or feel that I don't have what it takes any more, I will quit and walk away.
"If all goes well and I believe I can get back to the top, then it's simple – I'll be working towards a shot at the world title."