‘I’m massively proud of myself’ – Harley Hodgetts celebrates professional boxing debut with victory in Rome
Harley Hodgetts got his professional boxing career up and running by completing his very own Italian job.
The Fratton fighter picked up a unanimous decision win over Italy's Luigi Mantegna in a four-rounder as he finally made his long-awaited pro bow in Rome.
It was a moment the 26-year-old thought might never arrive, having quit the sport as an amateur scene eight years ago after becoming a father.
But just five months after turning professional, Hodgetts was back in the ring and beginning his new boxing chapter with victory.
The former Milton Cross student shed nearly three stone, weighing in at 11 stone 7lbs, to make middleweight - having given up weight training in order to return to the sport.
And Hodgetts was 'proud' of his achievements to ensure he made it back into the ring.
He said: 'It’s always been a massive passion of mine (boxing) and it’s always eaten away at me that I’d never really given it 110 per cent the whole time I’d done it.
‘I kind of thought this was my chance to try to push through and see where it can take me.
‘I’ve only been back in the gym for five months, it was the beginning of October I went back down the gym. It’s five months, then until now, it was quite a quick turnaround so I’m massively proud of myself.
‘I boxed early on in my career from the age of like 13 until I was 17/18 and gave it all up, had a kid, and had eight or nine years out the ring.
‘I thought it was finally time to give it a go, I’m 26 now, so I thought it was now or never.
‘It wasn’t the best time to get back into it, but it was all worth it in the end.'
Hodgetts, who is part of manager and trainer Michael Ballingall's promising stable, currently mixes work as an industrial roofer and cladder with pro boxing.
He admitted his schedule has been a gruelling one since returning to the gym, but beginning life as a professional with a victory made it all worth it.
Hodgetts is now eyeing his second pro bout before the end of the summer to start making his mark in the ring.
He added: ‘I picked right back up where I left off, it was all natural, it was all good.
‘The support I’ve had has been absolutely mental as well. I’ve had hundreds of messages from local people that I know.
‘It’s been crazy and I can’t wait to get out again and get fight number two done.
‘I’m so grateful that I had quite a lot of sponsorship money for this fight which allowed me to box abroad. Any opportunities that come up, whether it’s abroad again, if there are fans back in England before the back end of the summer - either way is fine.
‘If I can get out before August time that would be ideal and best for me.'