He might be only nine years old, but little James Jackson is already chasing fame and glory in the sport of kickboxing.
The tenacious fighter from Heanor even harbours dreams of world titles after being crowned champion of England in his age group and weight category at the first attempt this month.
“Now he’s got that first title under his belt, his ambition is to be a world champion,” said proud mum Vickie from the family home on Brookfield Way.
“It’s a real success story. Since taking up the sport just over two years ago, he’s really been enjoying himself, Now he’s buzzing. He is only young, but kids have been known to start kickboxing at the age of four.
“It’s a sport that teaches them discipline, how to defend themselves and how to listen, as well as fitness. James trains a few times every week.”
So how did James, who goes to Marlpool Junior School in Heanor, first get involved in kickboxing?
“I used to take him swimming at Heanor Leisure Centre,” Vickie explains. “One day we saw a kickboxing class taking place at the same time, and James said: I want to do that. I said he could, but only after learning to swim!”
The rest is history because, before you knew it, James had joined the M1K Warriors kickboxing club, based at Derby, and in the words of his mum, he was soon “whizzing through the belts”. He is currently a brown belt and working towards his coveted black belt.
“He started competitive fights this year and, so far, he has won three and lost one,” Vickie added. The big fight, though, was for the World Ring Sports Association’s (WRSA) vacant junior English title at the Genesis Centre in Alfreton.
The reigning Midlands champion, eight-year-old Harvey Finch, of Birmingham, was looking for an opponent -- and James fitted the bill. The bout was one of the attractions at a big amateur boxing show that was part of the Battleborn series, and James stunned Finch with a commanding success, winning two of the three rounds.
Now James is eligible to fight for the British title, once an opponent of similar height, weight and age can be found. After that, who knows? Belts for Commonwealth, European and world titles could be up for grabs.
Vickie was full of praise for James’s highly respected kickboxing coach, 34-year-old Matt Hainy, a former Midlands middleweight boxing champion who comes from Duffield. Hainy has nurtured many kickboxing prospects in recent years, including Nottinghamshire teenager Kade Hardy, who just happens to be Vickie’s nephew.
Indeed the whole sport has become quite a family affair for the Jacksons because not long after James took up kickboxing, his mum, dad Barry and 12-year-old sister Kirsten also became hooked.
“We all belong to the same club now,” Vickie said. “We don’t take part in fights like James, but we are doing the belts. It helps us to keep fit and is one of those rare things that all the family can do together, so it’s nice.
“We all train with James too. As a family, we are delighted with the commitment and dedication he is showing.”
Hainy is delighted too. “James is one of a kind,” he said. “He’s a model student who does as he’s told, works hard and gives 100%. His win was well deserved.”