Covid-19 scuppered his chance of appearing on a big bill in May, but unbeaten middleweight Brad Rea tells Elliot Foster he is ready to really push on when boxing resumes
Bradley Rea may not be a name familiar to many in the boxing fraternity, but the youngster is planning to make sure that changes in the coming months. The undefeated fighter, nine fights into his professional career with three early finishes, got a taste of mainstream exposure prior to lockdown hitting due to the COVID-19 outbreak and he insists that he wants more of it sooner rather than later.
“I’ve been really enjoying it so far,” he tells Seconds Out when talking about his campaign in the paid code. “I’m just taking each fight as it comes and felt like I have adapted well. I’ve been as active as possible so far, boxing every two or three months, thanks to [manager] Steve Wood and I think I’m at a stage now when I’m ready to step it up.”
The confidence of the middleweight, who had 97 amateur fights, is evident, but he is hoping that outings on big shows in future will relieve him from the “financially tough” side of things and the “mentally draining” task of selling tickets.
"When I first turned over, my mates presumed I was on big money and would be on TV and be famous; that’s not the way it works,” he added. “They didn’t get why I had to sell tickets, a lot were surprised how it works.”
When Jono Carroll outpointed Scott Quigg - which prompted the latter to announce his retirement from boxing - at Manchester Arena back in March, Rea was lucky enough to land a spot on the undercard. And although he was on before 6pm, in front of very few apart from those to whom he’d personally sold tickets, the 22-year-old was delighted to have been handed such a big opportunity so early on in his career.
“It was class to get on such a big card and gain some more experience for the future with public workouts, press conferences and day before weigh-ins,” Brad reflects. “Hopefully, it’s a taste of things to come.”
Rumours had begun swirling that Rea had impressed Matchroom boss Eddie Hearn enough to secure a slot on the next big card at his home venue. That’s something that the Stretford-born fighter confirmed: “Yes, the plan was to try and get out on the [Dillian] Whyte card.”
Whyte was set to meet Alexander Povetkin on May 2, in a defence of his WBC interim title, before it was canned and moved to July 4 at the same venue because of the restrictions placed on sporting events due to coronavirus.
“Steve said Eddie was impressed with the performance and I did well with tickets, so I think I would have been out on that bill,” Rea explains. “It’s disappointing [that it was postponed], but hopefully, opportunities like that will keep coming as long as I keep winning.
“I’m not sure if I’ll be on the rescheduled Manchester show in July and fingers crossed they will still have me, but if not, I’ll be out as soon as possible when this is all over.”
Rea is trained by Blain Younis at Ricky Hatton’s gym in Hyde, Greater Manchester.
“I’ve worked with Blain for a few years now as he coached me for my last two years as an amateur as well, I think that’s one of the main reasons I feel I transitioned over to the pros so easily,” he notes. “I’ve worked with a lot of good coaches over the years but I’ve just clicked with Blain in a way that I haven’t with other coaches before. I feel like he knows me as a fighter really well and I trust whatever he says. At Hatton’s, we have everything you need in one place and it’s all up to date and modern. When I’m in camp, I live just around the corner from the gym in a house that Ricky kindly puts us up in with one of Rick’s lads, Brett McGinty, who’s awaiting his debut. It’s really easy to be out of the way and I can focus and dedicate myself fully.”
Prison Break, Peaky Blinders, Game of Thrones and Tiger King have been keeping Brad occupied during the lockdown, but what would be his ideal next 12 months as he looks to break out of the shadows and into the consciousness of every boxing fan in the country?
“Ideally, I would like a six or an eight-rounder when I’m back, whenever this virus is out of the way,” he responds. “Then, I want to gradually build myself up to a point when in 12 months I will be in a position to challenge for a title. I feel like I’m ready to step up to eight and 10 rounds now and test myself against good solid opponents with winning records and it would be nice to get picked up by a big promoter and box on the bigger shows more regularly, but I’m sure that will come with time if I keep doing what I’m doing.
“I’m still a baby in the pro game but feel like I’m ready to make that jump now. I trust Blain and Steve with my career so I’m happy doing whatever they advise. Steve has taken fighters in my position to world titles before so he knows what’s he’s doing. I’ll do as I’m told and box whoever is in front of me.”