“You can’t leave your cell, you can’t eat what you want to eat, you can’t do nothing and when this moment happens in your life it teaches you a lot and this taught me that I can do better things than sleep in a cell with murderers.”
Dos Santos isn’t a familiar name to the UK boxing fans but the story behind the man is an inspirational one. When asked to inform the public of his background his initial response was simple:
“I am a professional fighter since 2016. Before that I was in the French army for three years and I was also in jail for three and a half years,” the light heavyweight told proboxing-fans.com.
Just two sentences leaving so many unanswered questions. Probed further, the Frenchman continued.
“I had a lot of trouble in my life. I am not a fighter who has a lot of hype, a lot of people don’t know me but I am growing in the sport. I am dedicated 100% on my work and I hope this fight can be for me the opportunity to be a real professional fighter.”
Throughout our conversation on the Matchroom Boxing media Zoom call, Dos Santos would claim he was looking to become “a real professional fighter,” by this he meant a full time athlete.
The army was the catalyst for ‘Panthere’s’ boxing career after competing whilst serving his country.
“I was in the National team for the French army for three years it was a great experience.
“The army was like a new life for me, because I am from the North of France and in this place it’s very difficult to not be in trouble, and I was in trouble since I was a kid.
“The army really saved my life.”
However, neither the army nor boxing provided enough discipline to spare the 30-year-old from a prison sentence.
“I wasn’t in big trouble, I was in trouble yes, but I didn’t do any crimes I was just a guy from the ghetto who was doing some bad things.
“At this moment I wasn’t a gangster so I made a decision to move to the army to have a good way. Unfortunately for me after three years in the army in my ghetto there were some big, big problems and they put me in a jail.
“After this moment my life changed, I got really bad, I made big mistakes in my life and thank God boxing changed my life and I retired from the street.”
Since leaving prison Dos Santos has dedicated his life to the sport of boxing. I was intrigued to know what was the trigger to walk away from the streets, what did Daniel learn from his time in prison?
“First of all to be a nice guy because in jail in France is tough. You can’t leave your cell, you can’t eat what you want to eat, you can’t do nothing and when this moment happens in your life it teaches you a lot and this taught me that I can do better things than sleep in a cell with murderers.
“I was also a guy that was bad because I was in jail with these guys so I was a bad guy too, in this moment I realised I don’t want to be a guy like that that no more.
“I can do more than to be in a cell, to be the bad guy or to go to jail, this is not good for me or my family.”
Daniel feels he was a product of his environment blaming “the ghetto” and “the streets” for his time spent in prison.
“Because of where I am from, where I was from. Where I was from is a tough city, really tough city. Lots of drug dealers, people rob banks, kill people, a really, really tough city.
“When I made the choice to leave the ghetto to go in the army some people see me like a traitor and they put me in a story when I wasn’t in a story and that story put me in jail.
“I went back to my street, I did some bad things and after that I done three-and-a-half-years in jail. But this is life. A lot of bad choices which put me in this position but from the bottom of my heart I wouldn’t like to do these things.”
Dos Santos described boxing as, “tough but it’s a pleasure” whereas he sees the army as the key to his successes in life. A man who is evidently proud to have served his country.
“For me it’s the army. The army really changed my life, the army is the best thing that could happen in your life because you fight for your country. You can die for your country. You can kill for your country if there is a war.
“For me the army is one of the best things that happened to me in my life.”
This Saturday night his chances of victory have already been taken away from the French fighter by the boxing fraternity, but this is an opportunity that offers more than just victory for Daniel Blenda Dos Santos.
“For me it’s a lot of things… like I said before I was in trouble, I made a lot of bad choices. I left the prison and I changed my life 100%, made a family, I have two beautiful children, I have a beautiful wife, I live near Paris, I’m not near my ghetto.
“This fight proves when you want to change your life you can do it because after that I can do what ever I want if I win.
“If I do a great performance it will mean everything. After this fight I can be a real professional fighter and people will say, ‘this guy deserves to be in the top place in the toughest fights,’ that’s what I hope for.
“I’m here and I’m thankful for Matchroom promotions, all of my team who have put me here and helped me when I was low and now are going to help me be a better man in a better place.”