Love Island veteran, pro boxer and proud Gravity Fitness ambassador, Idris Virgo talks exclusively to Gravity Fitness about his brief stint as an islander, his spiralling boxing career and the time he was falsely accused of being a terrorist…
From nothing to something
“I came from nothing and made myself into something” begins Idris. “I came from a tough background, growing up in Smethwick”. After suffering an assault from a local bully, when standing up for his sister, Idris was forced to move to Moseley. “I’ll never forget (the bully) smacking me round the head with a block of wood” he reveals “things got quite intense after that, so we moved” it was this fateful course of events that allowed Idris to begin his boxing career by stumbling upon his new local boxing gym.
“I came from nothing and made myself into something”
“I started boxing at 15” says Idris. When he first stepped foot in his local boxing gym he couldn’t afford membership so his now coach, Anthony Hall, invited him to help out at the gym, sweeping the gym floor and helping other members in exchange for 1-on-1 coaching.
“After years of graft, I got to the semi-final of the Amateur Championships and lost on points; I was robbed!” he exclaims. “I believe the amateur game is totally rigged, I don’t like it at all, but it did allow me to turn pro. My style is much more suited the pro 3-minute round.”
After enjoying his first taste of boxing success, Idris made a bold tactical career move which saw him lose over 3 stone of muscle “My coach and I took the decision to take a year out of boxing to get my weight down. I went from a 15 stone heavyweight at 5’10” down to super middle weight at 11 stone, 10 pounds” he says. Idris and his coach made the healthy decision to lose the weight slowly over the course of his year out. With Idris already being lean, that weight had to come from muscle, but Idris maintains he feels better being smaller. “Cutting two weight classes gave me speed; I’m faster, sharper and stronger” he reveals. “I did it through diet- I have a lot of green smoothies, porridge, chicken, rice, pasta, veg and meatballs; I have 5 meals a day, every 3 and a half hours but it’s all very small portions, you have to be very strict in boxing!”
Fast forward to present day and that bold move seems to have paid off; Idris is racking up an impressive fight record! “I’ve had 26 fights, lost 6” explains Idris boldly.
The not so terrorist plot
At the start of 2017, a shocking twist of fate bizarrely turned into a blessing in disguise for Idris’ career. “I used to work part time as a supervisor on the railway but always wanted to quit to concentrate on my boxing full time” starts Idris revealingly, who worked his way up the ranks of the railway in record breaking time. )
“I opened the door to a dozen armed policemen”
“I was on the Christmas shift, January 2nd, when somebody phoned the British Transport police and told them I was a terrorist!” he says, the shock etched tellingly on his face. “I had a call on the radio asking me to return to the office; as I arrived I knew something wasn’t right as my colleagues were waiting for me outside in the pouring rain. I went inside and opened the door to a dozen armed policemen. They told me I was plotting something, and I was suspended from the railway until further notice” he says earnestly.
The police took three months to conduct their investigations which, of course, didn’t come to fruition. “They knew they were in the wrong, so I was reimbursed. They had no evidence other than the anonymous tip off. The police said I don’t fit the criteria of a terrorist, I even had a normal contract phone!”
“I believe everything happens for a reason. (Being suspended) was a blessing in disguise, it allowed me to take boxing seriously, if I knew who called the police that day, I’d shake their hand. It made me realise the railway wasn’t me anymore” he resolves firmly.
“I’m currently training three times a day” states Idris. “I wake up at half 4 and jog for 5 miles fasted. After that, I’ll go straight to the gym and train with my coach at 9 o clock for an hour and a half. I then do a 1-to-1 at half two and then back again for a bit of sparring at half six. It’s very intense! I do a lot of sparring and technical work and always fit in some bodyweight training with my Gravity equipment. My coach and I are perfectionists, we focus on one drill and we don’t move on until we get it right.”
Idris grapples with both lighter and heavier guys at the gym from different weight categories “getting jabbed from heavier guys is great for conditioning; it’s good for me to take a hit from an 18 stone heavyweight on the chin. Sparring lighter guys helps with speed and gets my reaction times up” he explains.
“During camp (the gruelling pre-contest boxers training regime) I go to bed at half eight every night and have to miss EastEnders because I’m training- crazy” he laughs. “You have to graft before a fight!”(
“I haven’t touched a weight for three years
When asked about weight training, Idris chuckles “I haven’t touched a weight for three years!” he reveals. “Because I build a lot of muscle easily, if I touch weights I get massive. I try to do a load of cardio to keep my muscle mass down”. It’s a problem we don’t often hear about at Gravity!
“Boxing is a lonely sport that’s why I went on Love Island because I need a girlfriend” Idris divulges. “I’m 25 now, I need to settle and have kids. It was quite weird how I applied- I was in bed and fell asleep after finishing reading The Secret. I woke up the next morning and the thought ‘apply for Love Island’ was stuck in my head. That day, at a pre-fight weigh-in, I had the call from ITV requesting an interview. I thought it was a prank call at first!
“It all happened in such a short amount of time. Within a couple of days, I had another call saying, ‘make sure your bags are ready, your going to be flying out’.”
“Boxing is a lonely sport that’s why I went on Love Island because I need a girlfriend”
“When I walked in the villa, my head was pounding, it was so weird actually being in the villa after seeing it on TV; I couldn’t believe it was real. Everyone in there was sound! I fancied Caz, Stephanie and Alexander but unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be” he says.
“At least I went out with a bang when I won that fireman challenge” he teases. Idris demonstrated some pretty damn athletic moves in a Love Island challenge and topped the score boards after competing against the other boys in a sexy fireman show down; including a suggestive pole dance. “I was so, so nervous- way more than I get before I fight- I just zoned out!” he laughs.
Idris had plenty of time to maintain his fitness on Love Island “I was training four times a day in the villa; they took the pads off me in the end as everyone was sparring with me so there wasn’t enough chat. The producers said I was training too much.
“It was hard with all the food temptations about; biscuits and pringles in the cupboards and Wes’ cheese toasties at night” he giggles “but I loved every minute of it; I’d do it again.”
Retiring at 35
Idris’ impressive current work ethic has a short-lived expiry date, “I plan to be world champion within the next two years” reveals Idris “I don’t see myself working that long. I’m grafting now while I’m young because I want to retire at 35; that’s my deadline, so I can relax and enjoy life when I’m older.” he says determinedly. “I’m taking every opportunity that comes my way in the meantime!”