IF HE'D TRAVELLED A DIFFERENT PATH, unbeaten welterweight prospect Ahmet Patterson could have been dazzling audiences on the boards of West End theatres rather than on the ring canvas of the capital's fight clubs.
The 27-year-old from East Dulwich, who goes by the street handle of 'Pattycake', has earned rave reviews while throwing shapes on YouTube. But it's the fight game that remains dearest to his heart.
Formerly a national junior champion and England amateur rep, the twinkle-toed terror has racked up 14 straight wins since entering the profession in October 2010.
Ahead of his British eliminator with Glenn Foot at London's O2 Arena on February 28, boxing writer Glynn Evans caught up with the reigning English champion to find out more about those blistering feet.
I understand you were born in Turkey. What are your early memories of back home and when did you come to Britain?
You've been reading Boxrec! They list me as being born in Turkey but it's completely untrue. I was born in London. My dad is Turkish-Cypriot and mum is from Jamaica but I'm a British citizen.
What came first - the boxing or the dancing?
Boxing. I started at 14. I had far too much energy as a youngster. After walking past the door a couple of nights, I finally summoned the courage to look inside the Fitzroy Lodge amateur boxing gym in Lambeth.
Immediately I got a flavour for the 'tear-ups'. Whenever I was hit hard, I'd smile. I loved it. It woke me up, excited me! I soon acquired a taste for hitting other people, too.
What can you tell us about your amateur career?
All told, I had 67 amateur fights and lost just eight. I won the NYCPs and the National Novices for under 20 bouts when I was about 18. I'm not one for remembering names of opponents I fought - I'd just turn up and fight whoever - but I've since learnt that I beat Erik Ochieng on my way to the London amateur title.
Though I represented England against Ireland and Scotland, I couldn't get on the GB Team. I found the amateurs very political. They just pumped money into a few chosen boys.
I understand you were approached to represent Jamaica in the 2010 Commonwealth Games but rejected the offer.
Yeah. I went to Kingston and beat their top boy - a Pan Am bronze medallist - and the Jamaicans wanted me to box for them at the Commonwealths in Delhi. But I'd just begun training with (pro coach) Tunde Ajayi and I got a taste for the pro game. I wanted to be a world champion not an amateur medallist.
But you know what, it's something I grew to regret. Back then, I didn't really understand the business side of boxing. I'd definitely have got a medal in India and who knows what opportunities would have arisen from that. It taught me a lesson. Don't jump into things.
Still, you live and learn. Everything happens for a reason.
How did the dancing evolve?
I'd always had natural rhythm and, with school friends, I started to attend a few street dancing classes when I was 15 or 16. I later went to a Performing Arts college to study Jazz and African dance. In groups and troupes, we won a few competitions and I did a three minute mixed boxing/dance piece in a warehouse for Channel Four's 'Random Acts' show. I'm no video ho', mind!
I've always enjoyed showing off. The bigger the crowd, the better I perform.
Did your dancing ever invoke ridicule from some of the more macho elements within the boxing community?
You're joking, aren't ya! They loved it. I was always showing off my moves in the gym whenever a good piece of music came on. (Deceased Fitzroy coach) Mick Carney would always be playing a bit of (Frank) Sinatra at the Lodge.
I'd always be dancing and messing around while sparring. All the boys knew I could move and they admired it.
Ahmet Patterson shows off his footwork for Channel 4.
In what ways has your dance background supplemented your boxing training and career? Is it a path that you'd recommend to other aspiring fighters?
Yeah, dancing certainly helps develop rhythm, balance and control of your body. The training helps develop suppleness and the elite dancers have a certain strength. That said, if you don't have natural rhythm you won't be a dancer. That's something you just can't teach.
Though dancers tend to be quite fit and 'cut', the training is totally different. Boxing is the hardest sport and far, far more demanding. Against that, good dancers get more girls than good fighters get. All the ladies love a mover!
Despite your amateur pedigree, you weren't dealt too many favours climbing through the ranks, were you?
That's true. I actually signed with Frank Warren but after a couple of wins I had a few issues that kept me out of the ring for a year and we split.
After that, I really came through the hard way; tough fights off TV against the likes of William Warburton, Max Maxwell, Dale Miles, Phill Gill and Ivan Godor. I had no limelight and no one was really paying attention to me.
I knew there were a lot on 'the stage' who I could beat so, at times, it was very frustrating. But it made me a much hungrier fighter. To be honest, I liked it. Now I'm in control of my own destiny and I know where I'm going. In time, I'll prove I'm better than all the others. Let them hear the whispers!
People are starting to pay attention to me through what I'm doing inside the ring rather than what I say outside it. Now it's time for me to finally enter the 'Big Stage'.
For your last dozen fights you've been coached by Martin Bowers from The Peacock Gym in Canning Town. What are his attributes as a trainer?
If I'd been with him from day one, I'd be further on in my career. We gel so well together and his knowledge of fitness is second to none. Martin has this crazy work ethic but he's a very genuine fella and I've a lot of trust in him. He keeps me grounded and I look up to him. We inspire each other.
Your breakout win over Chad Gaynor (rsf5) to capture the vacant English title up in Sheffield appears central to you renewing your association with Frank.
Yeah, probably. When the fight was offered I went, 'Hell, yeah!' Gaynor was the perfect opponent for me and I had no probs going to his back yard. Every element was against me which just made the glory greater.
They thought I was a pushover and at the weigh-in he was really playing to the crowd. I just smiled and whispered 'see you tomorrow'! I won every round and if the ref hadn't stopped it cos his eye was closed shut, he'd have been stopped on his back.
Eddie Hearn rang me up but I started out with Frank and always viewed him as the best in the game. He really knows his stuff. First fight back, he put me on the big stage at the ExCeL against an unbeaten light-middle. But I delivered (with a comprehensive eight-round points win over Nuneaton's Sullivan Mason).
In late February, you defend your English title against Sunderland's unbeaten Glenn Foot in a fight that doubles as a British title eliminator. What do you know of him?
Very little to be honest. I know he won Prizefighter a few years back but that's the only footage I've seen of him. I hardly ever watch domestic boxing, just the top world title fights.
But I'll beat him because I know I'm going to the top and anyone in my way is getting destroyed.
What could a victory lead to?
The British title. I definitely want to be champion of my own country before anything else.
I don't call people out. I chase belts rather than opponents but if Frankie Gavin still holds it so be it. I'll challenge him or anyone else. I like doing things the hard way.
If Frankie vacates, it could be me and Bradley Skeete, another south Londoner. I want to be in the fights the fans want to see and that'd sell. I fear no man but I'd need to get something out of the fight. There'd have to be a title on the line.
Finally, what qualities distinguish Ahmet Patterson above all the other welterweight prospects in Britain?
I've got 'swag' and plenty of it! There's still a lot that the boxing public hasn't seen.