HARD WORK AND PERSEVERANCE have taken Manchester southpaw Terry Flanagan to 26 straight wins as a pro and the British Lightweight title. However, his induction to boxing as a primary schoolboy was noticeably less successful.
"I must have had roughly 60 amateur fights for the Ancoats club, then the Northside in Clayton and I doubt I won half of them.
"Though I beat (future IBF Bantam king) Paul Butler once, I won no titles and never got close to boxing international," recalls 'Turbo Terry' who fights Dublin's Stephen Ormond in a WBO eliminator in Wolverhampton this Saturday.
"The problem was I was really, really small for my age and really struggled to get bouts. But I wanted to fight so much, I'd weigh-in, in my ball guard and stuff loads of coppers around me so I'd weigh heavier. I'd give stones away.
"Seriously, there's 30 kids swaggering about Manchester, several from my estate, saying they beat Terry Flanagan and they're not lying!
"But look at them now. Millions had ability but drift away. It means nothing now. I've achieved through hard work, eating right, sacrificing my life."
Despite the mediocrity of his unpaid career, the 'Turbo' has proved unstoppable since entering the professional playground, aged just 19, in January 2009.
Steered by manager Steve Wood and coach Steve Maylett, he profited from an unfashionably long (24 fight) apprenticeship, systematically hoovering up the English Super-feather title and Prizefighter trophy prior to being unleashed.
But was the 'slowly, slowly' approach a necessity, due to his shortcomings as an amateur?
"Not really, I adjusted quickly. I just reckon I was avoided,' says Terry who has a two-year-old son.
"I always spar like I fight and in the past I had a lot of hard spars with the likes of Ricky Burns, Derry Mathews, Anthony Crolla and Scott Quigg. When I was down at nine stone, the spars I had with Quigg had everybody in the gym clapping. That's where I did all my learning.
"I won the English title quite early in my career (May 2012) but then nothing really happened for me. Others who I knew weren't as good were getting the opportunities instead so I had to work my way to mandatory (challenger) to force the champions to fight me.
"I actually believe I was good enough to have won the British title after I won Prizefighter (October 2012) and should now have the belt outright but I've held the title for seven months and I'm yet to make a first defence. Still everything happens for a reason. What's done is done."
While Manchester has spawned a conveyor belt of elite coaches over the past few decades such as Phil Martin, Brian Hughes, Billy Graham, Bob Shannon and Joe Gallagher, Flanagan has settled for the more personal touch of rising youngster Steve Maylett at the city's Finest Boxing Gym.
"All eyes are on me here. I've a great relationship with Steve. He visits my house constantly so tells me exactly when to run, eat and sleep. There can be no skiving. It's all 'full on'.
"I used to go for a long jog for roadwork, now it's all track sprints and hill runs. But I know every session counts. I'm always seeing what new I can learn today. I'm in this game to win big titles and know that if I'm not on it, that won't happen."
It might not be long before the likely lads presently boasting how they licked the British champion can upgrade their claim. On Saturday in Wolverhampton, Flanagan squares off with Ireland's Ormond in what is effectively a semi-final for the WBO crown and bookmakers have enlisted the Englishman as a marginal favourite.
"I'm not a loud mouth so don't always get the coverage others do," he concludes.
"But those in the gyms and those in the business all know what I'm capable of. The bookies have been scorched by my fans before, particularly from Prizefighter. I've been 'odds on' every fight since.