By: Oliver McManus
Brad Rea has had to be patient for his big opportunity. After building up on the small hall scene of Manchester, Rea first featured on a Matchroom Boxing undercard in March 2020 and moved to 9-0 in breezy fashion.
That show would prove to be one of the last in the United Kingdom before the pandemic intervened and it was 54 weeks later until Rea would have his tenth professional contest.
The 23-year-old was drafted into the Matchroom ‘bubble’ for a bout with, fellow undefeated prospect, Lee Cutler (7-0). Having waited well over a year to be back in action, Rea wasted no time in racking up the win with the fight lasting all of two minutes.
Reflecting on that bout, the middleweight told BoxingInsider.com, it was an experience well worth the wait.
“In the lead up to the fight me and Blain (Younis, Rea’s coach) were confident, we really were, that we were going to win in pretty convincing fashion. A lot of kids in my position aren’t getting the chance to box at the moment so, yes, I was happy just to be there but I was going to grab the opportunity with both hands.
I hit him with a nothing shot early on and you could see the shock in his face. Blain (Younis) told me to hit him hard early on and he started to back up as soon I’d got a couple shots off. I realized pretty early on that the early stoppage was going to be an option and once his facial expression changed I thought to put my foot on the gas and look to get the fight finished.”
Both men were ferociously confident throughout the build-up but Rea felt Cutler was investing too much in a shared sparring session from a couple of years previously. Lifting the lid on that, the 23-year-old conceded it had been an evenly contested spar but said it highlighted just how much he’d developed since.
“Me and Lee sparred a couple years ago and it felt as though in the bubble and in his interviews he was basing a lot off that spar. It was a good spar but it was his last in a camp, one of my first days back in the gym and I was 20/21 at the time so it wasn’t anything to read too much into. He seemed to be taking confidence from that but obviously, I’ve got a lot stronger since that session and that showed on the night.”
For a fighter who turned professional at the tender age of 20 and quickly settled into the routine of fighting once every two months, the pandemic posed the first opportunity since his debut for a period of reflection. Having secured the backing of Ricky Hatton, and training with Blain Younis, the three years since his debut has been a whirlwind of development.
Nicknamed ‘The Sting’ Rea – thanks to his venomous punch power and not a nod to his love of the Bee Movie – the Stretford man has visibly bulked out since his debut. That progress, he said, was in part down to being able to spend more time focussing on the finer details of the sport during the pandemic.
“I’ve definitely got much more mature in the ring since my debut. Both physically where I’m hitting harder and in better shape but mentally where I’ve been able to reflect and look carefully at what I’m doing. I’ve been able to work on areas I wouldn’t normally be able to dedicate too much time to strength and conditioning, for example, that’s come on massively this past year. I’m more adaptable than this time last year and, actually, if the fight went on a little longer that’s what I was hoping to show people.”
That increased maturity is equally reflected outside of the ring with the 23-year-old becoming a man in every sense of the word. He candidly admitted the past twelve months have seen him ‘grow up an awful lot.’
“Yeah, I’m definitely at that stage where you could say I’m starting to ‘become an adult’ and (I’m) doing more grown-up things around the house. I’d be a good little house husband, to be honest, I’ve realized that over the past year: I can do anything but ironing. That’s changed my mentality, though, where I’ve started getting things in order and I’m hoping that’s going to rub off in the ring.”
A fight being touted for when fans are able to return is between Bradley Rea and, popular Stoke lad, Nathan Heaney. Heaney, with a record of 11-0, has become infamous in the UK for his passionate fanbase and viral ringwalk. It’s a contest that promises to be an insatiable Stoke vs Manchester rivalry and one that Rea is eager to make happen.
“When I turned pro, it was these sort of fights, with the huge atmosphere, that I wanted to be part of. Nathan is a big-ticket seller, I can shift a few, and it’s a great clash of styles to welcome the fans back. Whether it’s in Stoke, Manchester, or wherever it really doesn’t matter to me: it’s a fight that opens up a number of doors for the winner and it can only be entertaining for the fans.
I’m a little bit younger and a little bit more experienced than a lot of middleweights but I am raising a few eyebrows. I’m just a young, pale face, skinny, lanky ginger kid and if people want to take confidence from that then they’ll get a surprise when we get in the ring and I’m punching them in the face.”
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