BRAD REA was just a young boy dreaming of becoming the next Ricky Hatton when he first started boxing.
Now he is mentored by his hero, unbeaten in 12 fights and scoring stunning knockouts on the biggest of stages.
Rea first started boxing aged seven but three years later his parents opened up the St Johns amateur boxing club in Cholton.
It was then the sport truly became a family affair – and shaped his life forever.
Rea, 24, told SunSport: "From that point a lot of my life has been in the gym.
"I was there five or six days a week, whether that was training myself, training others or getting £10 to go and clean it on a Saturday.
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"A lot of my life has been growing up in the gym and it kind of took off from there really. It's still my life."
Rea had a successful amateur career, representing England with just under 100 bouts.
At one point he gave life as a "normal kid" a go when he enrolled at Manchester Metropolitan University – but quickly figured it was not for him.
Rea said: "Don't get me wrong, when I hit that age, 17 , 18, 19, I did dip my toe in to see what it was like being a normal kid.
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"But I'd always end up back, a week or two in, I'd think, 'Right, I need to get back in the gym. This isn't what I want to be doing'."
Rea's dad Andy and mum Debbie were willing to let their son figure out his own path – but thankfully it circled back to boxing.
He revealed: "They kind of let me make my own decision. I was at that age, I tried university, it just wasn't for me.
"I'd be sat in lectures just thinking about boxing and I was ready to turn professional. That was all I wanted to do.
"I didn't want to do what I was doing, at uni you have that freshers week, drinking but at the end of the day my passion was boxing.
"I made the decision to drop out of uni and turn professional – now it's the best decision I've ever made. I'm living the dream."
The brutality of boxing can often leave parents watching through their fingers – if they can even manage that.
But mum Debbie is not only her son's biggest fan, but at one point one of the coaches in his corner.
Rea remembered: "She comes to all my fights, she's probably my biggest fan.
"I was a bit of a mumsy boy as well – and I'm not ashamed to say that!
"She's been heavily involved in it since I was a kid and although it doesn't get any easier for her, she still gets nervous but she's come to terms with that fact I put the work in the gym.
"I'm quite chilled out on fight night, confident in myself so if I am she is.
"But as an amateur she was at all my fights, she even had a coaching badge as well. So there were times she was parked up doing my corner.
"She's not your ordinary mum, she's quite clued up on how to throw a one-two, left-hook."
Debbie still remains his No1 supporter but has now been replaced in the corner by British boxing royalty.
Rea trains out of Hatton's gym and has the former two-weight world champion in his coaching team alongside head trainer Blain Younis.
He said: "When I was a kid, I was Hatton-mad. When I first really fell in love with the sport of boxing it was watching Ricky.
"So now it is a little bit surreal, I have to pinch myself every now and then, you know when he's in my corner.
"But he's just Rick now, not 'The Hitman' like I used to watch on TV. It's just great to have him on board and part of the team."
Hatton, now 43, is one of several boxing heroes from Manchester – and Rea hopes to be the next.
He said: "There's only ever going to be one Ricky, I don't think it's ever been done and ever will be again.
"But it's great the way Manchester and the city get behind fighters. You've seen it with Ricky and the likes of Anthony Crolla.
"Every couple of years a fighter comes around that the city really gets behind. When that arena is sold out it's bouncing.
"I remember going as a kid and I always thought, 'It will be me one day'. I always wanted to build it up and want the city to get behind me.
"And with the way I fight, I'm very exciting, and I do think people will want to come out and watch me."
Rea made a great case as the city's next star when Amir Khan and Kell Brook, 35, sold out the MEN Arena in no time.
And on the undercard the 6ft 3in middleweight brutally knocked out Craig McCarthy – with the win going viral.
Rea said: "There's people talking bit more, you get some more followers on social media.
"It is part of it, it's going to come with me boxing on bigger platforms and a lot of people seeing me.
"But I've not had a real chance to focus on that, as I had three days off after that last fight then I was back in the gym.
"The goal for me is just to keep impressing and making steps forward to the goals and aspirations that I've got."
Rea returns on Saturday night against Lukas Ndafoluma live on Sky Sports Main Event.
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