Rea Ready To Shine

Rea Ready To Shine | RingWalk UK

For Manchester fighter Bradley Rea, boxing out of Hatton’s Gym is something of a dream scenario. It hasn’t come easy though for the unbeaten middleweight, who has worked his way up through the ranks the hard way, plying his trade on the small hall circuit and whilst he is immensely proud, he certainly isn’t inhibited by the presence of one of Manchester’s most famous boxing sons in Ricky Hatton. “When I was a little kid, I was Hatton mad. said Rea. I had posters up in the gym, my first pair of shorts from Suzi Wong were Hatton replicas, sky blue of course and yeah, it is a bit surreal at times, but now it’s just Ricky, you know, being in the gym with him all the time and he does my corner and stuff.” He added, “I did have to pinch myself, but I couldn’t ask for someone better for some of the experience he’s got and just the little nuggets which he can pass on, whether that’s a big thing or just a little bit of information that I might use in a fight, you know, you can’t buy that experience.”

 

The pandemic brought about a change in the boxing landscape and the call was ‘no easy fights’. That call was answered emphatically by the rangy Stretford operator who stayed faithful to the sport and remained ready, moving to 10-0 in March when he quelled the threat of fellow unbeaten opponent Lee Cutler, stopping him in a first round demolition. It was on the undercard of Lawrence Okolie’s successful world title bid and elevated his already impressive middleweight profile, showing a glimmer of what can be expected in future bouts. Rea told me, “For me, it was a long time coming, it was a bit of a break-out fight for me. It gave me a bit more of a platform (fighting on Sky Sports), a bit more publicity. I think on that bigger platform, I got to show what I can do in front of a bigger audience and people started sitting up and taking notice.” The fight was billed as a 50/50 and Rea believes that was the key to progressing his career. “I’ve shown I’m not scared to take risks, I’m not scared to get in to 50/50 fights, although I won in the first round, it was a risk for us both. I showed what I’m willing to do, my career has taken off from that point.”

The rapid emergence of Rea and the dominant performance against Cutler helped rubber-stamp a deal with promotional outfit Boxxer, who recently announced the signing of the man nicknamed ‘Sting’ Rea alongside a stellar list of boxing stars that will be involved in upcoming shows at Wembley Arena and a card that will feature Rea on October 16th at The Utilita Arena, Newcastle. Speaking of his link up with Boxxer and the importance of appearing on shows in the North of England, Rea told me, “One of the big things for me in making a decision about my career, was asking Boxxer whether they are gonna be putting shows on in Manchester. It’s one of the things that swayed me towards them and I’m sure the boxers in the North-East were asking the same. It’s exciting and I’m sure all the fans in Newcastle are buzzing.”

Rea's affiliation with Manchester Arena is understandable and it is fair to say, most boxing fans around the country have fond memories of Manchester in one way or another. Whether it is watching local lads like Ricky Hatton or Anthony Crolla winning world titles, or Joe Calzaghe dismantling Jeff Lacy. Mine was watching live as George Groves drew a collective gasp from the vociferous crowd as he dropped Froch in round one of their first battle. But for City fan (a source for much ridicule from close friends, being a Stretford lad supporting City instead of United) Bradley Rea has always harboured the ambition of selling out Manchester Arena himself. “I’ve been going to the events in the arena since I was a kid up until now, and each time I’d go, I had progressed as an amateur and then finally turned professional and I was thinking I’m getting a little bit closer to fighting here. I think the last time I went, was Crolla’s farewell fight, I remember standing there, kind of walking up the steps and looking out, thinking, I can’t be far away now.” Rea manged to secure a fight at the arena in his next bout, but if anything, it has only further ignited the passion he has to fill the venue, “It was about 4.30 in the afternoon, there wasn’t many people there, but it was just a dream. It was nice to tick off the list, but I want to be fighting in packed out arenas and winning titles.” 

Speaking to the easy going, amiable middleweight about his experiences felt like a conversation with a character who had been in the game for years, and in fairness he has, but few have the wisdom and the affable manner of this young man. Plenty of boxers in the professional ranks show their confidence through brashness, but that isn’t Rea, assured and measured, yes. Perhaps the understated confidence and maturity that he displays, stem from his upbringing, being in and around the family gym from a young age. There are many tales of fighters who sought solace and a form of escapism in the gym, but for Rea, it was normality and just part of his everyday family life. He told me, “Believe it or not, I was a bit of a fat, chubby kid and started boxing as a way of keeping fit and then eventually my dad and my mum opened an amateur gym in Chorlton, Manchester. I think I was about 7 or 8 when they opened St John’s and that was it then, it was just my life, I was either training or coaching, I was heavily involved in the coaching side of it and got my coaching badges very young.” Inferring that it has helped shape his character as well as sharpen his boxing skills, he added, “It has moulded me in a way, moulded me to the person that I am now. For me, coaching others helped better me as a boxer, I miss it even now. Even for upcoming boxers, I think it is a great thing to do, I think it makes you look at boxing from a different perspective and although I was not a shy kid, teaching a group of 30 adults at the time gave me a little bit of a boost. When I talked, they listened to me because they knew, I knew what I was talking about.”

 

In many ways, 23-year-old Rea is old school, I hope that is not seen as a negative indictment on his character, far from it. It is more an observation of the values he holds, exemplified by his honest assessment of the sanctioning bodies and the route he would prefer to take as a professional boxer. “I’ve got nothing against the sanctioning bodies, but when you start bringing in super champion, silver champion and stuff like that, it just gets so that you don’t know who the champion is of each governing body.” Speaking of his respect for a belt that is steeped in history, the British belt, he said, “That Lonsdale belt, that British title is one of the most prestigious belts you can win and when I turned pro, you get a lot of kids who say ‘I want to be world champion’, ‘I want to fight in Vegas’, in my head, it was always a realistic target that I want to win that British title outright. I’m not saying that is all I can do, but I thought that was a realistic target I can set.”

 

The exciting, young Manchester man knows he won’t be too far away from reaching that target and struggled to hide his delight at the prospect of facing other domestic rivals in what is shaping up as a healthy crop of exciting British middleweights. “There’s so many good fights to be made, so many good fights, good clashes of styles and entertaining match-ups. Going that old school route, whoever has got those belts, there’s just so many good fights to be made, I’m just excited about getting involved. A lot of them are probably a step or two ahead of me until recently, but I’m playing catch-up, and I’ll be shouting them names out, I want those big fights. Hopefully in the next year or two, we can make them and be in some fun, entertaining fights!”


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