Touted as the next Anthony Joshua, Delicious Orie (Economics and Management, 2020) is a boxer who is focused on greatness.
Determination could be his middle name. From even the youngest age, the native Russian who settled in the UK at the age of seven has not let barriers stop him.
The academic athlete has set his sights on being the best amateur super-heavyweight boxer in the world, with aspirations to make his adopted country proud and win gold for England at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and reach the highest podium spot in the 2024 Paris Olympics as part of Team GB.
But that is just the start. After Paris 2024, Delicious plans to follow in Joshua’s footsteps and turn professional. It is, he says, a matter of time before he is crowned world champion.
“I’ll be pro by the time I’m 27 and aim to be world champion a few years later,” foresees the boxer who was named in January as one of the 2021 BBC Sport’s ‘Generation Next’ inspirational superstars.
This is the goal he has had since the age of 18, when he donned a pair of boxing gloves and headed into the boxing gym for the first time.
“As soon as I went to a boxing gym and tried it out, I knew I wanted to be the best at it,” says Delicious. “There were no doubts in my mind that was my aim.”
Not bad for someone who maintains he was not sporty as a child.
Born in Moscow to his Nigerian father, Justin, and Russian mother, Natalie, he spent the first seven years of his life in the city of Voronezh, 520 kilometres of the Russian capital, before the family moved to London to escape racism and to seek a better life.
The young Delicious didn’t understand English, but he worked hard to learn, excel at school and adapt to a new culture and lifestyle.
“It was difficult but it didn’t stop me,” he says, speaking after completing the first of his three daily training sessions at the English Institute of Sport, in Sheffield, where he has trained five days a week with the GB boxing squad for the past few months.
“I’ve always been very driven and I was able to adapt quickly, despite not speaking a word of English when I first came to England. As a child, I guess it was easier, but I had separate English lessons, picked up the language and made friends. I also excelled at maths, a universal language, and I used that to my advantage.”
There was another upheaval at the age of 11, when the family moved to Wolverhampton. He once again threw himself into his schooling, enjoyed whatever extracurricular activities were on offer and took advantage of the opportunities he was afforded.
Although he says he was not particularly sporty – “I played football a bit, but I wasn’t that good” – he started to play basketball and was bitten by the sport bug.
As is evident from his driven personality, he adopted an all-or-nothing approach and basketball became his first love. He trained relentlessly, playing at clubs in West Bromwich and Wolverhampton, reaching regional level in the under-16s and under-18s squads and even had a shot at nationals.
Inspired by Luol Deng, the Sudanese-born player who competed for Team GB at the 2012 London Olympics after becoming a British citizen, Delicious harboured ambitions to follow his hero, gain a US college scholarship and become an NBA (National Basketball Association) player in the United States of America.
But when he was unable to migrate to the States, due to passport difficulties, his NBA dreams were shattered. The lack of funding and career opportunities in the UK for basketball meant Delicious had to change course because he was not prepared to compromise his sport or academic possibilities.
It was then he decided to try boxing – and it changed his life and outlook. The four-cornered ring became his new home, a place where he knew he belonged.
After completing his A-levels, he took a gap year to give himself some thinking space. He focused on boxing training at the Henrietta Street gym in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, and held down several part-time jobs before applying to Aston University to study Economics and Management.
“I knew I wanted to go to university – I wanted to accomplish that for my parents,” he says. “I decided to take a gap year to decide what I wanted to do – I wanted to make the right decision and not rush into anything. I know a gap year isn’t for everybody, but it was right for me.
“I was very happy at Aston. I was focused: I studied, went to lectures and trained because I wanted to be the best at boxing and in my studies. I lived on campus for the four years I was there and loved it, even though I didn’t live the same kind of life my flatmates did. I didn’t get sucked in to the ‘typical’ student life of parties, but we respected each other, even if they thought me coming back from a run at midnight, just as they were going out, was a bit odd!
“My flatmates were great people and I loved being on campus. There were people from all over the world and I made so many friends, all with different ambitions and goals. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”
He stayed on campus during his industry year, where he worked at St Philips Chambers in Birmingham city centre as a fee controller, helping the barristers to organise their cash flow.
“It was a great experience where I got to meet some incredible people that would be long-term friends,” he said. “Working at St Philips Chambers I got to understand the legal world more and become familiar with legal terms and the work that goes behind court cases and the legal systems. The biggest thing I took from it is forming great relationships with lawyers, barristers and businesspeople – people who continue to advise and help me through my boxing career.”
With his eye firmly on the boxing prize, he still has a gruelling schedule. But in his downtime, between training sessions and at weekends, when he travels home to Wolverhampton, you’ll still see him reading economics books and researching about investment portfolios so he can confidently enter the world of business when the time is right.
Delicious’s journey in boxing accelerated quickly in a short time. Having first put on boxing gloves at the age of 18, in April 2019 he won the English National Amateur Championship super-heavyweight title, which is viewed as the most prestigious national amateur championship.
And, as he marched towards attaining a First Class Honours degree at university, the GB boxing squad came knocking. If all goes to plan, he’ll make his GB debut in the international competition some time in 2021.
It’s not unusual for super-heavyweight boxers to take up boxing at a relatively late age. Anthony Joshua started at 18, Deontay Wilder at 20 and Joe Joyce, 22. All three won medals in the Olympics before turning their attentions to the pro ranks and Delicious has followed their career trajectories carefully, saying they have been sources of inspiration to him.
While in Sheffield, he trains with some of the amateur sport’s bests, including Frazer Clarke, and he has also trained and shared a ring with Joshua.
“I’ve had priceless opportunities,” says Delicious. “I’ve really developed since working with Frazer and I’m surrounded by guys who are the best on the amateur scene every day, but working with Anthony Joshua was game-changing. He’s the one I started watching in 2015 and I want to achieve what he’s achieved and more.
“I haven’t been able to compete for over a year, but I’ve been working hard and developing. I’m ready for the next fight.”