A CHAMPION boxer from Ringland hung up his gloves to star in West End musicals – and has now returned to Wales to play Mr Mushnik in Little Shop of Horrors.

Jimmy Johnston was spotted playing the Artful Dodger in a Hartridge High School production of Oliver.

He was snapped up for a production of the same musical at the Dolman Theatre, and then went on to train in London aged 16.

Mr Johnston said: “Back in the day I was from Ringland estate. The family didn’t have any money and actually my dad passed away when I was 15. When I was 16 I moved to London to go and train.”

Mr Johnston, who lived at Hendre Farm Drive, performed around the workmen’s clubs, saving any money raised for a trust fund. He added: “To make money as a kid I’d take a ladder and clean people’s windows.

I’d get as far as the second or third house and they’d come and say ‘Go on, sing’.

While living in Newport, he had the beginnings of a promising boxing career.

Mr Johnston said: “I was Welsh school boy champion.

I was doing silly miles running every other day and going to the gym. I had no time to get out and be stupid, although I tried my best!”

“The discipline in boxing is exactly the same as being on stage. If I put my hands down, I’m going to be smacked in the face. If I don’t learnmylines and give that person the right cue, they don’t knowwhat to do.”

Mr Johnston, currently rehearsing for Little Shop of Horrors at Aberystwyth Arts Centre, said: “The cast is just so strong it’s a pleasure.

I will be very sad when before we know it the show’s going to be finished.”

Mr Johnston was nominated for two Laurence Olivier Theatre Awards, in 2001 and 1999, for performances in The Pirates of Penzance and Oklahoma!

Little Shop of Horrors will run from July 26 to August 31. Visit www.aberystwythartscentre. for more information or to book tickets.