JAMIE Brooks has faced some huge challenges in his life – but believes his latest mission is right up there with the best of them.

The 34-year-old former Oxford United professional will be back at the Kassam Stadium in September, but instead of lacing football boots, will have gloves to tie.

Brooks has been working hard for a one-off boxing match to raise funds for a charity close to his heart.

And while he admits he did not appreciate exactly what he was letting himself in for when he first agreed to take part in the bout on Saturday, September 29, the ex-striker is putting everything into his mission.

“I have been in training for just over nine weeks,” he said.

“I have lost over a stone already and it is such hard work.

“I’d say it is the biggest test I have done – the training is brutal.”

That is a big statement from somebody who in 2002 was fighting for his life.

Having broken into the United first team, scoring their first competitive goal at the Kassam Stadium, Brooks enjoyed a stunning campaign which saw him net ten times in 27 appearances and land all four player of the season awards.

His exploits caught the attention of Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, who invited him to Highbury ahead of a proposed move.

But three days before that was due to take place, Brooks was taken ill with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a rare auto- immune condition affecting the peripheral nervous system, usually leading to temporary or long-term paralysis.

He spent nearly all that summer in intensive care and nearly lost his life on several occasions.

But he battled back to full health and even donned United’s first-team shirt again, defying specialists.

Brooks raised more than £10,000 for the Guillain-Barre Syndrome support group, and is keen to add to that tally for the charity, now called GAIN (Guillain-Barre & Associated Inflammatory Neuropathies).

“I am grateful to just be here,” he admitted. “I wanted to do something out of my comfort zone and just want to raise both money and awareness for this terrible illness.”

He added: “The doctors told me I would never play football again.

“I proved them wrong, but I knew I wasn’t the same after my illness and had to retire early.

“I’ll be nervous, but will just go with it. I am not just doing this for the sake of it, I want to win as well.”

Although being restricted with how much he can do in certain sports, boxing is something Brooks is able to put everything into.

“I would get fatigued playing football or if I was doing a 100m sprint – I have no strength in my tendons or hamstrings, which is why I had to retire early,” he said.

“But boxing is a different type of exercise – I can do this.

“The guys at Stamina Boxing Club have been great – and hopefully I will do myself justice in September.”

l To donate to Brooks’s challenge, go to justgiving.com/fundraising/jamie-brooks5

Tickets for his fight will go on sale at a later date.