Ian Clarkson on the boxer who walked away from the ring but is back with a vengeance...

If titles were awarded for the body beautiful, then Marcus Portman would be a serious contender.

Two years ago, he was a serious contender on the British welterweight scene until a loss against Chris Sanders in an English title fight pointed him in the direction of bodybuilding.

Rippling muscles and a potential career couldn't eradicate a nagging doubt that he had unfinished business, however.

Which is why the West Bromwich boxer returns to the ring in Dudley tonight, albeit at a heavier weight, determined to fulfil what he regards as his destiny; winning the British title.

His bout with Dean Walker will be a bruising affair as the Yorkshireman is a gritty, rather than stylish, opponent but it will be a useful barometer of Portman's career prospects.

Top of the bill is Darren McDermott, as the unbeaten middleweight faces Poland's Andrezj Butowicz in another exciting PJ Promotions card.

Seven fights are on offer, but it is Portman's return that is the most intriguing, as he attempts to ignite potential that has lain dormant for some considerable while.

"It has been a long time, but there were a few things in life that I wanted to do," said Portman, referring to his self-imposed sabbatical.

"I have always lifted weights and I decided to turn to bodybuilding. I just got fed up with boxing and I hit the weights," which is infinitely preferable to hitting the bottle.

"I shot up to 14-and-a-half stone of pure muscle and I was ready for competition. A lot of people told me that I could forge a career as a bodybuilder and I became confused.

"I think it was only a matter of time before I returned to boxing as I know I have got talent. I have been back in the gym sparring with the likes of (Young) Mutley, (Darren) McDermott, (Stuart) Elwell and (Dean) Hickman.

"Everyone seems to have improved in my absence and the sparring is excellent. I really appreciate boxing now and my break has made a man of me.

"I have grown up in the ring and have stopped moving my feet as much, so my punches carry more weight."

Portman's enthusiasm is infectious and it is apparent that his love affair with boxing has returned.

Errol Johnson's Wednesbury stable already houses three Midland Area champions and a former British title holder, so Portman is training at the best gym in the West Midlands.

Success is an powerful drug and Portman is addicted to the aura that emanates from champions and is fully committed to his cause.

An occasional doorman in Walsall, the muscular fighter is able to concentrate his efforts fully on boxing and is, ostensibly, full-time.

The road to redemption has been painfully slow at times for Portman as Johnson has kept him under wraps for months.

Unfortunately for Walker, he is preparing to unleash two years of frustration on his unsuspecting opponent.

"There is a real air of confidence within our gym and I am going to use that to my advantage," added a bullish Portman.

"I have been sparring non-stop for months, even including a stint in Hungary, but Errol kept me back until he thought I was ready."

"I have lost three stone and I am now at my perfect weight, as I feel stronger than ever before. Fighting at light-middleweight is more natural for me and I can eat what I want, as I don't seem to put on weight.

"I was so muscular that it took time for my shoulders to relax. That might sound strange but Errol kept an eagle eye on me and feels I am ready now.

"I have got three new sponsors and I can't let them down, so I am here for the duration. People are counting on me to be a success and I want to fight for titles within 12 months. I need a couple of fights to blow away the cobwebs, but I am back and far better than before."

* Birmingham's Simon Sherrington is in line for a Midland Area title fight with Burton's Matt Galer in September. The 34-year-old light-middleweight from Chelmsley Wood will attempt to take the belt that Galer won last September when he comfortably beat Ladywood's Terry Adams.