He had 48 professional fights, was KO'd be Mike Tyson, and has been in the news for his actions as a bouncer – but nothing unnerved Julius Francis more than appearing on stage.
But the 58-year-old didn't land any old role during his brief career change. In fact, he took on a role in one of Shakespeare's most iconic plays, starring as Desdemona's father in a modernised version of Othello.
And the Peckham-born fighter openly admitted the anxiety of performing on stage far exceeded that of donning gloves and stepping into a ring. He claimed during the performances that: "Every night my knees are knocking. I'm far more nervous than I ever was going into the ring against Tyson."
Francis was part of an Intermission Youth Theatre project that worked with talented youngsters aged from 14 to 22, most of who had problematic backgrounds. They decided to perform a revamped version of the tragic love story, interspersed with street-talk and gangsta rap.
Back in late 2012, Francis found time during shows to tell The Independent that the adapted wording helped him revise his lines: "Really difficult – I've done a bit of TV work but this has been the biggest challenge I've ever faced," he said.
"I'm out of my comfort zone. I never read Shakespeare at school. To be honest it was a bit of a turn-off because it was all a foreign language to me. But the way it has been adapted it really works.
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"Going on stage gives me the same adrenaline rush I had when I was fighting. I've sweated, oh boy have I sweated. Sometimes the words have got stuck, but when you hear the applause and take your bow at the end you are buzzing.
At the time, the Rev Rob Gillion, who first approached Francis for the role, was full of praise for the man who won the British Commonwealth Heavyweight champion in 1999: "He's a darn fine actor and can have a great future in the theatre," he said.
Following his acting stint, Francis began working in security and this month, knocked out a man who was behaving aggressively at a gig at Boxpark Wembley. The video went viral with Francis, who was cleared of wrongdoing by police, publicly supported by the likes of Tyson Fury.
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