Marcel Braithwaite has walked toward many challenges during his life and emerged stronger from them.

Braithwaite, the British and Commonwealth junior bantamweight titleholder, will face another test of character when he ventures into hostile territory to fight world 115-pound titleholder Ricardo Malajika (12-2, 9 KOs) Friday at Emperors Palace, on the outskirts of Johannesburg, South Africa.

Fortunately for him, Braithwaite, 29, has never been afraid to test himself.

He had yet to face an opponent with a winning record when he dropped the outstanding Sunny Edwards before losing a unanimous decision in a vacant British junior bantamweight title fight in 2019. Rather than rebuilding, Braithwaite, of Liverpool, U.K., decided to bounce straight into a fight with quality world title challenger Jay Harris, losing a decision.

Things are different now. Braithwaite (16-3-1, 1 KO) will travel to South Africa as a proven championship-caliber fighter inside the ring and a mature, well-rounded person outside of it. He faces a tough task on Friday night but goes into it with his eyes wide open. If the fights with Edwards and Harris were necessary gambles, the fight with the dangerous Malajika is a calculated risk. 

“I think it’s just kind of my mindset in life. I’ve never been one to shy away or back down from an opportunity,” Braithwaite told Boxing Scene. “At the time the Sunny Edwards and Jay Harris fights came around, I needed the money. I needed to change my life, so I needed to take a risk. It might not have gone to plan, but I stuck to the path. I’ve been persistent and now it’s all turned around. I think it’s just testimony to having faith and being consistent. You will get your rewards.

“The Sunny fight was on six weeks’ notice, off the back of the fight with Craig Derbyshire for the English title. That was the first title I’d won, so I celebrated and blew up a little bit. It’s all experience. I live a lot more disciplined now. I think I’ve fell back in love with the sport. That’s one of the key things – I’m back enjoying it. I feel like I’m getting what I deserve, and this will be another step in securing my legacy in the sport.”

The confident Braithwaite is unbeaten in eight fights since losing to Harris more than three years ago. He has accounted for current European bantamweight champion Thomas Essomba and former EBU bantamweight titleholder Ryan Farrag. Last October, Braithwaite knocked out Ijaz Ahmed to win the British junior bantamweight title. Still, he receives precious little press attention.

If he can beat Malajika, who is ranked No. 10 by BoxRec and is ranked by both the WBC and IBF, Braithwaite will have made his mark on the world stage and be in possession of three major titles. Things should change. Rather than complaining about the lack of acclaim, Braithwaite believes he is now in a much better place to deal with hte attention and expectation that success brings.

“Definitely, but I don’t control the media, so I’m not in control of the narrative as yet,” he said. “Results speak for themselves, and there will come a time when they’ll have to give credit where credit’s due. Until then, I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing.

“I probably wouldn’t have been as grounded as I am [without the Edwards and Harris losses], and in that sense I’m grateful. Fast success builds ego and slow success builds character. That’s exactly what I’ve done, and I’m grateful. In the time that it’s took me to get to these titles, I’ve done youth work and a lot of things that are good for the soul. I’ve actually made an impact and made some changes behind the scenes. I haven’t blown the trumpet on it, I’ve just done it and I think the rewards are gonna rain down now.”

Wayne Smith will be the man by Braithwaite’s side in Johannesburg this week, and his will be the voice “The Chosen One” will be listening out for on fight night. 

Braithwaite lives just 10 minutes from the Golden Gloves gym in the Toxteth area of Liverpool and has been working with Smith for years. The pair split for a brief time early in Braithwaite’s career, but they never truly left each other’s orbits and always seemed destined to be drawn back together. The two have been through ups and downs but have stuck together and stuck to the plan.

Smith deserves immense credit for taking a child away from some of the toughest streets in Britain and helping to provide him with a clear path through life. But turning him into a fighter capable of winning English, Commonwealth and British titles is a small miracle. Still, Braithwaite insists that the story is nowhere near ending.

“It’s been a long road,” he said. “I think this is gonna be special when we go to Johannesburg. I think it’s part of life. At the time when we first got the gym, Wayne was on his own. He was running the amateurs, the professionals and helping Pat Barrett do shows, too.

“At the time, I felt like I wasn’t necessarily getting what I needed, but there’s nowhere else I’d rather be than at the gym. It’s part of me. It’s close to my heart. It’s had a massive impact on me and changed my life. My plan has always been to be able to give back and hopefully create that same effect for the kids coming through. We’ve achieved what we planned and we’re planning on going on and achieving a lot more.”

Braithwaite looks forward to bringing a title back to Liverpool – and bringing his career full circle.

“I think it’ll be one of those moments in life to just sit back and soak up, bringing a world title back to the gym I started at when I was 11 or 12 years old,” Braithwaite said. “It’s my 18th year in the sport – I’ve spent a lifetime doing it – so it’ll be nice to have that world-champion status and be able to show the belt to the kids.”