Michigan native J'Leon Love is undefeated in 12 professional bouts (Photo courtesy of Team Love).
By John Archibald, Resolution Sports
I recently caught up with undefeated middleweight boxer J’Leon Love (12-0, 7 KOs), who is a Michigan bred tactician fighting out of the renowned Kronk Gym in Detroit. A fast rising 24-year-old prospect with a vibrant personality to match his multi-faceted skill set, Love once ran the streets tossing fists before his father took his aggressive nature inside the gym, and that dropped the ink on the first page of a career book that is certain to be full of some entertaining and successful chapters.
“I grew up in a small town just outside Detroit, Michigan. Growing up in that area, you’re going to have to do a lot of things, and fighting is one of them,” Love told me. “I had an older brother who thought he was the boss man, so he used to beat me up a lot. But you know, fighting just came natural to me.”
Fisticuffs were a regular occurrence in Love’s life at an early age, but he became intrigued by the sport of boxing one day when he was flipping through the channels on his television.
“I saw boxing on TV at a young age, amateur boxing between the Navy and the Army, and I think I just fell in love with the sport as soon as I saw it,” he recollected. “I asked my mother ‘Can I get into the sport?’ and she wasn’t having it. You know how moms are. She was like ‘Find another sport and don’t ask me anymore.’ My mom was the type of mom where if you asked once and she said no, it meant no.”
While his mother was not too keen on the idea of having her son lace up the gloves and box, Love kept getting his fill of scrapping outside the ring until one day when his father grabbed him up and they headed to Kronk Gym for the first time.
“Even though I continued to fight in the streets, I had never been a kid who really got into trouble. Just fighting, that’s all,” Love reflected. “Since I was fighting in the street, my dad said ‘If you think you can fight, I’m going to take you to this gym called Kronk Gym, and we’re going to see what you got.’ We kind of went behind my mother’s back without her knowing, but, for a long time, I was training at Detroit’s Kronk Gym. The original Kronk, where all the big-time fighters like Tommy Hearns and Milton McCrory trained. I knew I was in the right spot, man, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
As soon as he walked into Kronk Gym, Love was hooked, but there was still one problem. His mother had no idea that he was spending his free time working on his boxing skills.
“I think I had been training for about eight months before my mom even knew. Now, my mom is my number one fan,” he laughed. “My mom, dad, my fiancée and my family all support me 100%. It doesn’t matter where I fight. They’re going to be there. Eight months, though, we had been training, and I finally had my first fight. So we told my mom, and she wasn’t too happy, but she knew it was something I wanted to do. Then she found out I was pretty good at it, so she was there for me 100%.”
Love then began what turned out to be a very successful amateur career, winning the Detroit Golden Gloves four straight years from 2006-2009 and earning a Silver Medal in the 2007 National Golden Gloves Tournament. In 85 amateur bouts, he amassed an extremely impressive 80-5 overall record. But while he had proven as an amateur boxer that he obviously had the tools to be a successful professional, it is never a given that a fighter will be able to transition his skill set to the next level. In fact, many find the jump to be too much of a leap and never find their comfort zone. In Love’s situation, that is clearly not the case over the first two-plus years of his professional career.
“I was built for this, you know what I mean?” he said. “People at a young age pick up a lot of things. You have some kids who are good at basketball, some kids who are good at hockey, and so on and so forth. Some kids read faster than other kids. Boxing, man, I just picked it up. It’s like my body was made for this. When God made my body, it’s like He said ‘I’m going to make this kid a boxer.’ I have long arms, and my body structure is built right for this. From the amateurs to making that big transition to the pros – you either have it or you don’t. I had it. I’m not sure exactly what set me out to do it, but I definitely had it.”
Anyone who has ever seen Love’s walk out gear or his trunks knows that the man is Michigan proud, placing the signature “M” on both articles of clothing. In addition to his pride that results from residing in the Wolverine State, he also finds much self-gratification in knowing that he represents Kronk Gym.
“Pretty much, any fighter who trains at Kronk was a stray dog, and, once he came down, he was thrown in with the wolves, whether he could fight or not,” Love commented. “You would know if you’re built for this. I’ve seen so many guys come down thinking they were the baddest man on the planet, and they couldn’t last 30 seconds in the ring. That gym will make you or break you. You see guys get knocked out all the time in a professional fight, but on common occasion down there in the gym, you’ll see guys get clipped during sparring. That gym is straight up a beast of a gym. If you come from Kronk, you know you can fight.”
With three wins in 2012 already on his resume, Love says he plans to keep it moving with complete focus on his future as he heads onward.
“We’re just looking to go forward, stay busy and keep polishing our skills,” he stated. “We put so much hard work in. I put hard work in all day and all night. I’ve had the chance to watch several different champions train, and I know what it takes. 2012 – we just want the world to know who J’Leon Love is. Let’s go ahead and step out of the dark and get into the spotlight. Let’s show everybody what we’re made of. We’re representing the whole Midwest, Michigan, Detroit, know what I mean? Let’s go ahead and let them know I’m the total package.”
12 fighters have already learned out that Love is the total package since he embarked on his professional career in 2010, and one thing is for certain. They won’t be the last ones to find out.