An Interview With Unbeaten Middleweight Bradley Rea
By Oliver McManus
Lancashire middleweight Bradley Rea has always wanted to stay occupied: to keep his mind ticking over and his body active. That attitude has followed him in his professional career with eight fights, all successful outings, within 15 months of his debut in September 2018.
He returned to Hatton’s Gym in the second week of January eager to push on. Rea began by reflecting on a 2019 that had seen him secure five well-worked victories.
“I’m happy: I started stopping opponents which, obviously, the year before didn’t happen and I was eager to get one. I’ve stayed busy which is the plan for 2020 and I stepped up the opponents at the right time. Each (opponent) offered something different and was a step up and I rose to the occasion each time.”
The year began with four rounds against an ever-stubborn Victor Edagha. The Italian-born journeyman is known for his awkward, head-leaning style that is hard to look good against. Rea out-pointed Edagha 40-36 and from was able to gradually enjoy the year more as it progressed.
“He’s a frustrating opponent, more than anything, he’s hard to loosen up against. I prefer it when guys, like Alistair Warren, are coming box positive and want to make it into a fight. Once they’ve opened up and relaxed it means I’ve got more openings, myself, so that’s what we’re looking at in 2020.”
Former Central Area challenger Alistair Warren was supposed to provide a stern test when the pair locked horns in July. Warren has a reputation for springing an upset – with wins over Marcus Morrison and Chad Sugden – but Rea pounced on him with menacing intent. Three knockdowns saw the rising star finish the job inside a round.
“When I boxed Alistair you could tell he was feeling positive but we caught him with a body shot early on and he sort of knew what we were about. That was a really good fight and it was everything me and Blain had been working on in the gym; we had planned to target the body and that’s how we stopped him. That’s a confident boost when you watch it back and know that what you did in the gym slotted together.”
1 minute and 56 seconds of the first round was the official time of the stoppage: in Warren’s next fight he would be stopped a whole second quicker by, VIP stablemate, Mark Jeffers.
“The other lads in the gym were telling me the day after to look at the timings and Mark (Jeffers) went and stopped him one second quicker. I know Mark well but I softened him Alistair up for him, there’s no question about it!”
For a man with around 100 amateur contests you could well ask what Rea stands to learn from these early bouts. With each, supposed, increase in opposition appears a more mature performance from the middleweight. And with time on his side, the 21 year old is acutely aware of the test they provide.
“In the gym you’re learning every week but boxing these seasoned opponents who have been in with top class guys you can take bits from them, as well. They do test you because they’re so slippery most of the time. I had nearly 100 amateur fights but they don’t teach you how to beat someone that’s so negative. Victor (Edagha) is hard to look good against but I did a good job against him, really, all considered and I did show what I can do in the fights afterwards.”
Indeed his opponents have all been notable for their supposed durability. They were meant to give Blain Younis’ charge with something to think about. Rea’s ability to continue impressing is a testament to his relationship with Younis and their dedication in the gym.
“I think the fact I stopped the opponents that, on paper, should have been my toughest fights show that I am learning and maturing. It’s cliche but, like you said, it’s where I’m growing into the game and growing into my strength – I know how to use it, now, which is the most important bit. I know which shots to throw and I’m getting into the hang of it, to be honest. I do the middleweight limit comfortably so now I’m more experienced I can just fine tune things, really.”
There is a proactive approach when it comes to that “fine-tuning”
Rea candidly says “in my debut I looked like a kid; in 18 months I’ll look back and I looked like a kid in my last fight.” Part of that assessment comes down to the fact that the middleweight is being kept busy. He has not been given time to put his feet up and rest: he plans on more of the same for 2020.
“I’m looking forward to stepping up to eight rounds and getting a couple of them. Then we’ll step it up to ten in the second half of 2020 before targeting a first title shot. Ideally I’d want one at the back end of the year but as long as I’m positioning myself sort of there and thereabouts then I’ll be happy. It’s up to Blain and Steve (Wood) how quickly we go because they are happy to pull the reins and be patient; I am still 21 so I’ve got time on my side. The team around me are sensible so we’ll do things at the right time.”
Going into the new decade at 8-0 it’s clear that the young fighter has a touch of class. Competing in a crowded middleweight scene, full of undefeated prospects, Bradley Rea had a clear message for his fellow fighters: ‘I’m ready when you are’.
“There’s a few lads knocking about in a similar position to me (in terms of ranking) so let’s hope they’re willing to put it on the line; I’m happy to challenge myself and get in those 50-50 fights. It’s no point all of us being undefeated if we’re just going to face journeyman for the whole of our careers.”