J’Leon Love may not be a household name among sports fans yet, but he will be soon. Fighting for Floyd Mayweather with backing from The Money Team has the young middleweight in the right lane for stardom, while his work ethic and ten wins by KO prove the International WBA Champion has the engine.
Hailing from Inkster, Michigan, the 26-year-old boxer may be on his way to fame, but that’s not what fuels his tank. After a few minutes of talking to Love, it’s clear that providing for his family is what keeps him on path. Not just a boxer, but also a sneakerhead, taking care of the fam means putting in the work and outfitting them just the same. We caught up with Love to talk about his interest in kicks, motivating his nephew with LeBrons and even rocking a rival’s boots in the ring.
Nice Kicks: How did you first get into sneakers?
J’Leon Love: I’ve been into sneakers for so long. [Growing up] my older brother had his own money, so he used to come in with Air Force 1s, retro Jordans, old school PUMAs, Sauconys and Nike Cortez. He always stayed fresh. I wasn’t able to get them because my mom couldn’t afford them. I promised myself that when I was able to buy my own shoes I would buy every pair that I had ever wanted.
Nice Kicks: Since gaining acclaim as a boxer, what’s the first pair of kicks that you really remember picking up?
J’Leon Love: It had to be the “Space Jam” 11s. I was in a training camp and they were paying me weekly. This guy I knew already had a pair of them and I wanted them so bad. He charged me $200 for them. He’d already worn them, but it was just the fact they were the “Space Jams” and I had wanted them so bad. That was my first pair. I ended up playing basketball in them after a while. [Laughs] For some reason, I couldn’t keep them as clean as he did, so I ended up throwing them into the basketball box.
Nice Kicks: Growing up, what were your favorite kicks?
J’Leon Love: I liked the “Bug Bunny” 8s, the “Raptor” 7s and any pair of 9s. I was a big fan of 1s, too. I’m not so interested in 1s anymore, but there are a few that come out now and then that I might grab. Even the 14s. There are so many Jordans that I love so much.
Nice Kicks: How has backing from Mayweather Promotions affected your access to kicks?
J’Leon Love: Oh man, it’s definitely a blessing to be in the position that I’m in. I’m such a Jordan fan and a sneakerhead that I actually buy them for my nieces and my nephews. I have a nephew that is really into sneakers. I paid almost $1,000 for him to have the “South Beach” LeBrons that he really wanted. I promised him that if he made straight grades this year that I would take care of him, and that’s what I did. It’s definitely a blessing to be in the position I’m in – not just to buy things, but to be able to take care of your family and give them what they want.J’Leon Love in the Nike Kobe 9 Elite “Gold”
Nice Kicks: Does your nephew get his interest in sneakers from you? Conversely, does he ever put you on to new kicks?
J’Leon Love: Yes, I guess when he sees his uncle wearing shoes he wants to be fly too, so if I’ve got something on, he’s got it on too. He’s into Kobes and KDs real tough. I haven’t bought myself a pair yet [Editor’s Note: He since has], but he’s definitely influenced me. There’s a high-top pair of Kobes that caught my eye. He put me on to them.
Nice Kicks: Switching gears to boxing, what boots do you wear in the ring?
J’Leon Love: I actually rock the Manny Pacquiáo Hyperko from Nike. It’s kind of crazy that I’m with Floyd Mayweather and I’m rocking a Manny Pacquioa shoe [Laughs], but they’re just dope. They’re comfortable, they look sweet and that’s what I pick up every time I fight.photo by Harry How/Getty Images via Zimbio
Nice Kicks: If you could have any sneaker made into a boot for the ring, what would it be?
J’Leon Love: It would be a mix between the 9s and the 11s. I don’t know how that would look, but if I could create a boxing shoe, that’d be it.
Nice Kicks: Boxers like Roy Jones Jr. have laced up Jordans in the ring in the past.
J’Leon Love: That was one person that I really loved to watch fight. Due to his skill, of course, but also because he was a fly dude coming into the ring, a flashy type of guy. He was the only boxer I would ever see with Jordans on. Now, you have Andre Ward who’s in the mix with Jordan Brand. Back then, Roy Jones had a heavier boxing shoe, and now Andre Ward has a lighter boxing shoe. They’re both sweet and I would love to be in a position to have that.
Nice Kicks: What should fans expect next in the ring and on the feet of J’Leon Love?
J’Leon Love: You know me, I’m always driven and working hard. I’m never satisfied. I complete one goal and then I can’t wait to accomplish the next. I just want to keep performing well. September 13th will be the next big fight. I’m a young guy fighting a lot of these tough, older champions and winning. I’m currently 18-0.
Always expect a good performance from me because I put my heart and soul into what I do. I’m always working hard. I have no choice but to do what I have to do because I have a lot of people to feed. I care for my family so much and want to give them the best, so this is why I do it. I love the sport of boxing and it has changed my life. I’m so appreciative of it, so you can definitely expect me to put my heart and soul into every fight.
Keep up with J’Leon Love’s kicks and training on Instagram.
Lead image photo by Kevin Wong