AS boxer Stuart Hall prepares for the biggest fight of his career, his family and a host of dignitaries from his home town are backing him to bring the IBF World Bantamweight belt back to Darlington.
The 33-year-old started his boxing career in the amateur series as a promising teenager and after a five-year hiatus in Ibiza, he returned to the ring as a professional in 2008 and claimed the British Bantamweight title in 2010 - in just his ninth professional fight.
Now he is gearing up for the fight of his life as he looks to see off Vusi Malinga to claim the IBF World Bantamweight title at the Leeds First Direct Arena on Saturday.
Just to challenge for a world title is a huge achievement for a boxer who turned professional relatively late in his career, but his father Kevin believes he has all the attributes to make it to the very top.
He said: “I always wanted him to turn professional, but I thought he had lost his way when he packed it all in.
“I told him to get back to his boxing and he did, and now he is much happier - he is more dedicated as a professional and is training all the time.
“I still get nervous about the fights but he is doing what makes him happy.”
Mr Hall admitted that his wife Eileen could not bring herself to watch the fights live, but he will be cheering their son on from the Leeds ringside in what is bound to be an emotional occasion.
He said: “You have got to give your opponent respect, what will be will be, but I am quietly confident that Stuart will win.
“I will be there on Saturday but I don’t get inside the ring anymore, I just like to go and enjoy it with my friends.
“I’m proud of where Stuart has got to and I might take a pack of tissues for this one just in case there might be a few tears.”
Hall has enjoyed huge support from Darlington, and the town’s MP, mayor and council leader are among those willing him to bring the title back to the North-East.
Darlington MP Jenny Chapman said: “I don’t follow boxing but it is always nice to see people from Darlington do well and I wish Stuart all the best for his fight.”
Bill Dixon, leader of Darlington Borough Council, said: “Obviously any Darlingtonian excelling in any sport is great news and I am sure that even people who don’t support or follow boxing will wish him well; I certainly do and I am sure the mayor will put on a reception whatever the result.”
Darlington Mayor Councillor Charles Johnson said his support for Hall is “absolute”.
He added: “Anybody who is taking the town out onto the international stage deserves our full support, and boxing is as good a vehicle as any.
“What he has already achieved is brilliant and my mayoral year is all about promoting Darlington and its people, so we will probably do something to thank him for his efforts when he comes back whether he wins or loses – though obviously we would rather he came back as a winner!”
*For live updates and pictures from the fight, log on to northernecho.co.uk on Saturday night