AT the relatively tender age of 29, Chad Gaynor can claim to be one of life's true survivors.
He's come close to death in a car accident, escaped being paralysed, spent two years in jail and grappled with mental health issues.
Now, just a few months after walking out of prison and back into normal life, the toughie who grew up in Thrybergh is determined to make the most of his second chance.
Gaynor will make his debut in the brutal sport of bareknuckle boxing in September. Next year he wants to regain his license to return to gloved boxing and finish the business that was left unfinished by a life-changing incident six years ago.
Back then Chad had a 15-2 gloved pro record and was on the brink of taking his career to America when he was involved in a car crash that left him with a broken neck.
“I fractured the top bone in my neck that connects to your skull. I should have died really. The doctors didn't know how I was still alive,” he says.
It was a huge jolt for a lad still in his early 20s but the ordeal was far from over.
“I had to have a halo fitted around my head for 12 weeks,” he explained. “It is like a pot that puts your bone in line and it helps heal the bone.
“After 12 weeks the bone was in line but it had not fused so I had to decide whether to carry on like that and risked being paralysed if I fell down or risk an operation to have screws inserted.
“That operation was risky as well, 50-50. They told me that if it worked I would be fine but if not there was a chance I could be paralysed after the operation. Luckily it all went good.”
Chad after surgery.
Although Chad's body took a lot of re-building, his mental state also took a jolt.
In a Tweet at the time he said “It looks like my boxing career is over before it started. What to do with myself now...”
“Before the crash I had a contract to move to Los Angeles,” he remembers.
“I was out there and came back to England to have an operation on my eye and it was only a few days before that operation that I was involved in the crash.
“It sent my head west. I went a bit cuckoo. I had lost everything, I thought I could never box again.”
Chad's “wasted” years were difficult, his dreams stripped away, and culminated in him going to jail in 2018 when he was found in possession of a taser gun.
“I bought it on holiday and brought it back. I was pulled on the way home from the airport in a random search by the police.
“I didn't know it was the same as having a gun and I ended up getting two years for it.”
With former trainer Dave Coldwell.
The time behind bars gave the one-time potential champion plenty of time to reflect.
“Being locked up gave me time to think, it sorted me out.”
A year ago, feeling stronger, Chad went to the doctor and got an unexpected boost.
His medical notes said he was strong enough to box again, contrary to what he'd been told after the accident.
That news meant that by the time he was released in April, he had a new goal and motivation in life — back in the ring.
Gaynor needs to complete a trouble-free 12 months in order to get his pro license back from the British Boxing Board of Control.
Ever the fighting man, he has no intention of filling it doing nothing.
He's has signed up for a bare knuckle show at The Indigo at the O2 Arena on September 12.
Bare knuckle boxing isn't for the faint-hearted. The rings are smaller, there's less room to hide and the punches land flesh on flesh.
That said, the sport is growing in popularity and the shows are getting bigger.
“It just fell into my lap,” he said.
“There are lots of dodgy bare knuckle boxing shows but mine is a proper licensed one.
“BKB is taking off. A lot of good pros have signed to them.
“It suits me down to the ground because I used to knock people out with gloves on. I know I am going to dominate it.
“If it takes off I might stick with it but my goal is to get back into boxing and win a British title.
“I am 29, I have a good few years left so I am putting everything into it.”
With a girlfriend and two kids aged four and ten, Chad has responsibilities and an extra drive to do well by them.
“I am more hungry now than I was because I was nearly there as a boxer and then I lost it all,” he adds.
“It's like I have been given a second chance. I am not going to let it slip.”