Walsham-le-Willows fighter Leon Dunnett wins WRSA PRO-AM in Wolverhampton after five-year absence from kickboxing as Thurston club sees more success
Leon Dunnett admitted he ‘rolled back the years’ to complete the perfect comeback as he was crowned WRSA PRO-AM British full-contact kickboxing champion in Wolverhampton.
The 26-year-old from Walsham-le-Willows defeated reigning national champion Josh Barnett in round two to lay down a marker on his return to the sport after five years out.
After a successful youth career which saw him represent England at just 12-years-old and win the World Championships in 2012 in France, Dunnett withdrew from the ring after having children, being busy with work and then the Covid pandemic.
But the Thurston Combat Kickboxing Academy (CKA) fighter lost five stone in order to get back to a ‘fighting weight’ and made his big comeback last month a truly memorable one.
“It’s nice to be back and winning some things,” said Dunnett.
“I’ve had a few fights over the last six months just to shake some of the rust off and try and get back into it.
“I was a bit nervous going into it seeing what it was like.
“We sold quite a few tickets locally, over 100 people came down to watch. That always makes it that little bit more daunting with a bit more pressure.
“It was brilliant. It was rolling back the years, it was really good. A lot of the people watching hadn’t seen me fight before so it was nice to put a good display on for everybody.”
After a close first round, that Dunnett edged, he went into the second with a changed mindset. And after working downstairs to the body, he mixed up some well-worked combinations to take out Barnett after one minute and 55 seconds.
“We went out with a game-plan. Because it was my first big fight back, the plan was to get some rounds in and get some experience and hopefully take it to the full five rounds,” said Dunnett.
“But he caught me quite early on with a good shot and we said we can’t afford to get rounds in, you’ve got to do the job when the opportunity comes. The first round was close and then my corner said I was paying him too much respect and to take a turn in the second.
“I went on the front foot in the second round. The advice was to stop messing around and take it to him. I took that as ‘it’s time to step up’.”
The instruction to enter the second round on the front-foot came from his coach and father, Peter Dunnett.
“He’s been my coach from day one. I always say it’s good to have my dad in the corner because I can pick his voice out amongst everybody else,” said the CKA kickboxer.
“He always says it’s quite nice because it’s like having a puppet on a string, whatever he says I do because I can pick his voice out and it’s quite a good relationship to have in a corner team.”
Dunnett is not considering another break as he is currently travelling to Birmingham twice a month to train with the England squad and has his eyes set on getting to a ‘semi-pro or world title level’ within a year.
Meanwhile, CKA celebrated even more success this year as in October they took a team of five fighters to the World Kickboxing Championships in Hull where they came away with four gold and two silver medals, competing in both kickboxing and boxing categories.
Liam Powell (2), Lee Parrott and Dunnett achieved golds as Jamie Nedic took home both silvers with Tom Borrows also fighting well.