Chris Kongo has described his current intense and relentless regime ahead of his next bout – including 5am runs to avoid traffic and pollution.
Bermondsey’s Kongo, 28, has an unblemished 12-0 professional record including seven knockouts after his ninth-round finish of Luther Clay at Matchroom’s Fight Camp in Brentwood last August.
Kongo fights Michael McKinson as he defends his WBO global welterweight title on Alexander Povetkin versus Dillian Whyte 2 on March 27.
McKinson, 26, is also unbeaten (19-0, 2 KOs), and has held the WBC Youth, WBC International Silver and WBO European welterweight titles.
“It’s hard work, it’s hard work,” Kongo told Millwall’s podcast, Wall Talk. “I like to do my early-morning runs, they’re the best times, less cars on the road, less pollution and no one really sees you at that time.
“I’m up at 5am in the morning getting my jog.
“On Tuesdays and Wednesdays I’ll be with my strength and conditioning coach, they’re based in Rugby. I’ll make sure I’m conditioned to my peak.
“In the evenings I’ll either be doing a sparring session or a normal boxing session, technical stuff.
“We want to mix it up. Sometimes we’re training twice a day, sometimes three times a day but we know we’re getting in the work six days a week.”
Kongo, who is a Millwall fan, went to primary school five minutes from The Den. He took part in the club’s various community projects and credits it with keeping him on the right path.
He also explained how important his coaches were when he started as an amateur. Kongo was first at Fisher –around the same time as Ted Cheeseman – under the tutelage of the legendary Steve Hiser, before moving to Lynn.
“At a young age when you’ve got your coaches telling you you’re going to become a world champion, it’s a wonderful feeling,” Kongo said.
“I was always told that but I knew you had to work, it’s not an easy route. I love the sport, it’s something I was doing every day. There were days when I wasn’t allowed to go to the gym and I was crying at home. That shows my passion for it.
“I had the determination and always knew what I wanted to be from a young age.
“There was something about the coaching that was different to others, to make you stay in the gym and stay dedicated.
“One thing our coaches did was keep us active, keep us fighting, making sure we were getting the experience in regularly.”
Kongo explained where his nickname, 2Slick, came from.
“You always have to be training and active,” he said. “I got a last-minute call – you’re always only one phone call away.
“I was in college as well. It was London versus the Army at the weekend and I accepted. I was ready. The guy previously beat me, I’d beaten him. I wanted to show my improvement
“It was a dinner show, there was a boxing ring you and you had people sitting down, a lot of people from the military were there.
“I could hear a lot of the guys shouting, ‘too slick’ – I wasn’t getting hit.
“As soon as I got out of the ring and got my medal there were guys getting a picture with me and they were saying, ‘you’re too slick’.
“I had only one supporter, he’s a DJ, he came to support me because my mum and my brothers were working, and he said, ‘you’ve got to keep that name’.”
Kongo was patient to see off the threat of Clay.
He explained: “As a fighter, one thing I’ve learned is that if I can hurt you I can definitely do it again. I always knew once I’d hurt him I could hurt him again.
“There was never a doubt in my mind that I should have pressed more to get the knockout in that [earlier] round. I knew it was a good round for me and I was up in the scorecards as well. I knew, just keep winning the rounds,
“It can go ten rounds, you have to keep going, keep pushing.”
Kongo was asked about his ultimate ambition, and didn’t hesitate to answer: “World champion, nothing less than that.
“Unified world champion in three to four different weight classes. That’s pretty much my end goal.”