Garry Neale thought his boxing career was over – until he had a phone call from Portsmouth great Tony Oakey.
Neale will make his professional debut on the stacked February 23 card at Fareham Leisure Centre.
Neale admits he owes his place on the bill to boyhood hero Oakey.
As a teenager, Neale showed promise at Leigh Park ABC, but drifted away from the gym and instead concentrated on playing football for Moneyfields in the Wessex League.
But he was convinced to revive his boxing ambitions by the Leigh Park Warrior last year, paving the way for him to sign for Michael Ballingall.
Neale said: ‘Tony’s a very good pal of mine and when he started coaching at the amateur gym he asked me to come along.
‘I went to see him and been in the gym since.
‘Tony has been a massive help. He rings every day to make sure I’m doing what I should be doing and he comes running with me – even if he does take short cuts!’
Neale says he ‘works and trains six days every week’ and admits fiancée Jenna has been ‘brilliant’ in the countdown to his pro debut.
He feels that will help him convert his amateur pedigree to the paid ranks.
He shared two bouts with Ryan Moore – also in action in Fareham and now a stable-mate – and goes into next month’s fight boosted by his performances in sparring.
Neale headed to Brighton to spar pint-sized powerhouse Ben Murphy.
Murphy was preparing for his British and Commonwealth title fight against Martin Gethin and, getting in the ring, Neale feared the worst.
He said: ‘I thought Ben was going to take my head off. He’s a strong fighter who has proved himself at British-title class – and I haven’t even had a pro fight yet.
‘But I held my own with him and I was chuffed with that. It gave me a lot of confidence.
‘My other half has told me to get on with training and leave everything else to her, even helping with sponsors.
‘Now I just can’t wait to get in there.’