NOT many people would feel at their happiest slugging it out on the inside of a boxing ring - but, then again, not many people are like Gary Stretch.
The champion boxer turned movie star took a trip down memory lane this week when he paid a flying visit to his hometown to promote St Helens’ very own Hollywood hall of fame.
But he was also keen to promote his latest project, a boxing documentary which refers to the ring as The Safest Place on Earth, in which he is switching to the other side of the camera for the very first time.
Gary, 45, told the St Helens Reporter: “I’m really enjoying working on this documentary and interviewing the likes of David Haye, Ricky Hatton, Freddie Roach, Micky Ward and Manny Pacquiao. To be honest, being on the other side of the camera is what I want to do right now.
“Having an acting background really helps too. A good director can tell an actor what to do but a great director can show them.
“Boxing was always a release for me when I was growing up. I suffered a lot of insecurity at that time but the place I felt most at home was inside the ropes. That’s why I wanted to tell my story and compare it with some of the world’s famous boxing greats.”
Gary, one of the stars of blockbusters Alexander and Dead Man’s Shoes, was on-hand to mark the official opening of the St Helens Discovers public art event in Church Square on Monday - less than 24 hours after jetting in from Los Angeles.
As part of the project, a trio of giant kaleidoscopes, which display images of St Helens’ links with Hollywood, have been erected on the pavement outside St Helens Parish Church.
Surrounding the circular installation, which is set to stay in the town centre for the next five weeks, are Hollywood-style gold stars dedicated to Gary Stretch, Colin Welland, David Yates, George Groves, Herbert Mundin and Paul Harris.
Gary, a former British light-middleweight champion who went six rounds with fellow Brit Chris Eubank back in 1991, added: “It’s great to be back in St Helens. I should come back more often but, when I was invited to this event, I made every effort to attend.
“Even working as an actor in Hollywood, I wasn’t aware of the range of connections that St Helens has with the film business. And to think those connections go right back to the golden era of the film studios is a real eye-opener. “There’s obviously a lot of talent here but I think what’s great about St Helens is that the people are real - there’s nothing fake about them. What you see is what you get, and I like that.”