Michael Graydon relishing his return to the ring after six-year absence
BRISTOL boxer Michael Graydon is set to make a surprise return to the ring in next week's big televised show at Clevedon's Hand Arena – six years after he last climbed between the ropes.
An ABA junior champion and England international as an amateur, the Stockwood-based light welterweight was hailed as the next big thing in West Country boxing when he turned professional and signed for Chris Sanigar in 2004.
But Graydon's dreams of glory quickly faded and he quit the fight game in disillusionment after just six bouts, his last outing ending in a points defeat to Worcester's Billy Smith at the Whitchurch Sports Centre in April 2006.
Unable to cope with the burden of expectation, the young Bristolian spiralled out of control.
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He recalled: "I fell out of love with boxing and went off the rails for a while.
"I was only 18 when I turned professional and, in hindsight, it all came too soon for me. I was an ABA champion and an England international and a lot was expected of me from the start.
"Looking back, I was under a lot of pressure and I couldn't really handle it.
"I became disillusioned with boxing and began living my life wrong.
"I'd hang about with the wrong people and stay out late drinking more than I should have done. I lost my way a bit back then."
But things changed for the better after the young tearaway came under the influence of his fiance, Kira, and the couple are now expecting their first child.
It seems the responsibility of impending fatherhood is having a stabilising effect on Graydon, who, at 26, insists he is finally mature enough to dedicate himself to the fight game.
He will launch his comeback in good company, boxing on the undercard of the Tyson Fury versus Vinny Maddalone match-up at the Hand Arena.
Yet his second coming has not been entirely smooth and Graydon admits he had a lot to prove when he turned up on the doorstep of Sanigar's Bristol gym six months ago begging for a second chance.
"I know I let down Chris and a whole bunch of other people who had helped me," said Graydon. "I think he was surprised when I turned up and knocked on his door and I don't blame him for doubting me.
"Fortunately, he was good enough to give me a second chance and I'm determined not to let him down. I've a lot of making up to do, I know that."
Graydon may have been inactive for six years, but his army of fans have not forgotten him and the self-styled 'Babyface Assassin' has personally sold more than 250 tickets for the Clevedon show, which is being co-promoted by Hennessey Sports, in association with Sanigar Events, and screened live by Channel Five on Saturday, July 7.
"I always had a big and noisy support and that won't change," said Graydon.
"I'm fortunate that people have stood by me and I've been able to sell a lot of tickets.
"I know I'm very fortunate to be able to make my return on such a big show so close to Bristol and I'm really excited now.
" I've been training hard for about six months now and I can't wait to get it on."