Professional boxer Nigel Wright is gearing up for the biggest fight of his life. He tells Neil Hunter what it's like juggling his training regime with work and caring for a new baby.

NIGEL Wright is a self-confessed fidget. The light welterweight boxer just can't stay still. Perhaps it's just as well. With an English title fight just days away, a four-month-old baby to care for and his job as a lifeguard to fit in, Nigel has little time to put his feet up.

A typical day will see him out for a run first thing in the morning, spend time with his daughter, Mia, and fiancee Rebecca before going to work at a nearby leisure centre and put in up to three hours in the gym.

It's just a way of life for the 25-year-old ranked nine in Britain - a gruelling way of life - and it has been since he turned professional more than four years ago.

But it's not the same for many of his opponents, boxers who can dedicate as much time as they like to their dream of winning coveted titles.

"Most pros who are ranked in the top ten don't have to do a job, and can train full time," says Nigel. "Some of them are training two and three times a day, six days a week. It makes a big difference.

"I had got to number eight in Britain training only twice a day, three times a week, but I am doing it every day now. It is hard, coming in from training when you're tired and your body aches and you want to spend time with your family.

"I have to work 30 hours a week on top of that, so there is very little spare time just to relax. But I love being on the go, and when I do retire from boxing I'll have to do something sporty because there's no way I could just sit around and do nothing."

Retirement is a long way from Nigel's mind as we chat in the lounge of his home in Spennymoor, County Durham - in the two hours he has spare between a five-mile run, a trip to the dentist for a new gumshield and a session at his gym in Hartlepool.

What is on Nigel's mind, however, is the date Friday, March 11. It has been for weeks. It's his date with destiny. A victory for the Bishop Auckland-born fighter against Dean Hickman, from West Bromwich, is widely expected to catapult Nigel into the limelight.

The English title bout is top of the bill at the Doncaster Dome, will be screened live on Sky, and could pave the way for a crack at the British title and unimaginable riches.

Nigel's burning ambition - and it's been one since he first put on a pair of gloves at the age of four - is to win a belt. Winning the British title and defending it three times will earn Nigel a Lonsdale belt, a place in history and earnings he has, so far, only been able to dream about.

Nigel is supremely confident in his ability and his record both as an amateur (78 wins from 90 bouts) and as a pro (13 fights, 12 wins and six knock-outs) gives him reason to be.

He twice won the Amateur Boxing Association title, reached the quarter finals at the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur in 2000, and has competed in world championships.

Nigel's confidence is shared by coach Peter Cope, who has been putting the ten-stone fighter through his paces at the Gus Robinson-owned gym in West View Road, Hartlepool.

Peter says Nigel is possibly the best boxer he has trained in 20 years, and has the natural ability to reach the very top.

The coach accepts he faces a tough fight against the Central area champion but fully expects him to notch up another win and take a giant step towards a British title fight.

"He is a brilliant talent," says Peter. "A nd it is all there for Nigel. It's up to him to do it now. I have done the best I can to get him in shape and he is fitter now than he has ever been.

"He is topping the bill on Sky TV on a Friday night with millions of people watching. It is up to him to grab it and make those people want to watch him again. He has really committed himself to this fight and if there is any justice in this world he should get on.

"He is still working part-time and now has the baby, but over the next 18 months to two years he can break through and secure his family for life."

Fiancee Rebecca Armstrong, whose father Michael was a heavyweight fighter with the Shildon boxing club in the early 1980s, has had to put up with a lot since she met Nigel, but acknowledges the sacrifices he has made to get to within a few rounds of his ultimate goal.

Throughout his fighting career - both amateur and professional - Nigel has missed out on the kind of things most lads in their late-teens and early-20s enjoy the most. While his contemporaries have lived for the weekend, to go out and drink and have fun, Nigel has lived for his dream, to become the best in the business.

His unstinting focus impresses those in the fight game, but it does have its downside, especially for student nurse Rebecca and others who are close to him.

"In the weeks leading up to a fight, Nigel is a nightmare to live with," says Rebecca, 20. "He goes into his own little world and is very quiet and can be moody."

But the boxer, brought up in Crook and a former pupil of Crook Junior School and Parkside Comprehensive in Willington, has a slightly different view.

"It's not as bad as that," he chips in. "I just don't like being bothered. I don't like anyone getting in my way. I'm a nice lad most of the time, but when a fight comes up I get evil thoughts."

Rebecca, quite naturally, worries about the potential health risk boxing poses, but has still been to every one of her partner's pro fights, other than the last one in Edinburgh when their daughter was just a week old.

"It was horrible," she says. "I wanted to be there, Nigel wanted me there, but there was no way I could go when Mia was so young.

"I love the sport, I grew up with it with my dad boxing, and I don't mind watching it, but I don't like watching Nigel. I wouldn't be normal if I didn't worry about him, but I am right behind him all the time and will always be there."

Nigel adds: "This fight is the one I can break through with. Yes, it's added pressure, but it's extra motivation as well.

"I started boxing when I was four and went along to the gym just because my brother went. At first I just messed about but the coaches realised I had a bit of talent and started pushing me and training me properly when I was seven and that's when I started to take it seriously.

"When I was little and they chucked me in the ring I used to be scared of being hit in the face, but I'm used to it now. Once I can become British champion, pack in work and train full-time like the rest of them, we will be able to see how capable I am.

"I'd love to be able to hang up my gloves after winning a Lonsdale belt. That's what I want. I can live a normal life when I'm 30 or 32, and can start relaxing. Well, maybe I won't relax that much. I can't sit still. I can't stand it."

Tickets for Nigel Wright's title fight on Friday, March 11, cost £30. They are available by calling (01388) 812205. Coaches will also run from Crook and Spennymoor.