In the second of our three-part feature on Michael Jennings’ WBO welterweight fight against Miguel Cotto in New York on Saturday, we spoke exclusively to his veteran trainer Brian Hughes, who believes anything is possible for the likeable Chorley boxer ...

NOBODY would love to see Michael Jennings on top of the boxing world more than proud trainer Brian Hughes. In fact, it would make an ideal 70th birthday present.

Chorley welterweight Jennings is just two days away from destiny, as he prepares to step into the ‘mecca of boxing’ – New York’s Madison Square Garden – for the biggest fight of his life.

Nobody is giving the 31-year-old father-of-two much of a prayer against Puerto Rican favourite Miguel Cotto, regarded as one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world.

Yet, one man who has been with Jennings during every step – and punch – of his career will never lose faith that one of his favourite boxing sons can pull off the greatest of challenges, one he describes with brutal honesty as like ‘climbing Mount Everest while blindfolded’.

Hughes – chief coach at the famous voluntary-run Collyhurst and Moston Lads club in north Manchester – has seen enough in a training career spanning almost 50 years to know that anything can happen in the tight confines of the boxing ring.

The 69-year-old has just about seen it all in the sport – and produced world champions in the shape of Runcorn middleweight Robin Reid, who landed the WBC title back in 1997, and Irish super featherweight Michael Gomez.

Hughes is desperate to add one more name to that list – just months before he becomes a septuagenarian – before finally taking a back seat.

“For me, it would be absolutely fantastic if Michael did the business on Saturday night,” said the Collyhurst-born coach.

“I’ve been involved in training for about 50 years now, and fortunate enough to have worked with so many champions – world champions, British champions and European champions.

“I’m coming to the twilight of my career now and it would be the icing on the cake to see Michael as world champion. Nothing would give me more joy.

“It’s my 70th birthday soon – that would be a terrific present for me.”

Hughes, awarded an MBE in 2000 for his services to boxing and the community, has seen hundreds upon hundreds of young lads come through his Collyhurst gym.

All have their own distinct personality, but he admits it takes a certain type of character to become a champion, rather than being just a decent club fighter.

Each and every member at his club have that character, and none more so than Jennings, who Hughes revealed is a shining light to young boxers making their way in the world.

“If every young man was like Michael Jennings, there would be no wars in this world,” he said.

“He’s a tremendous lad, he’s loved by everyone here. He’s such a role model for all the kids that come through our gym.

“It’s a real tough area around here and every single one of these kids look up to Michael. They all copy him.

“I’ve known Michael for about 14 or 15 years now and not once have I heard him utter a swear word in front of the kids.

“It’s not to say he’s a goody two-shoes, but he’s got a lot of respect for other people. It’s impossible not to like the boy.”

With the hours ticking away before Jennings steps into the ring for the vacant WBO welterweight belt, Hughes insists that the boxer nicknamed the Chorley Lurcher could not be better prepared or focused to beat Cotto.

Over the past three months, the Lancastrian has trained non-stop without over-training, and looks in peak shape as he bids to strike the boxing big-time.

But Hughes admits there is little denying that his Puerto Rican opponent – a 1/33 shot for victory – is the outstanding favourite to prevail in America’s Big Apple.

The veteran trainer said: “He’s going to have to climb Mount Everest blindfolded if he’s going to take this belt.

“He must enter the lion’s den, take the meat out, and come out unscathed.

“He knows that too. Everything will be against him on the night. In America, nobody is going to give him any favours.

“We are not kidding ourselves, he’s worked very hard to give himself the best possible chance of beating Cotto.

“And he’s got that British Bulldog spirit which the American-based boxers don’t like.

“If anyone can pull this one off, it’s Michael Jennings of Chorley.

“He can do it if he does what we’ve worked on for the last few weeks. I’m positive that he’ll be okay.”

Hughes added: “He won’t be fazed by Madison Square Garden, far from it. The whole place will be bedlam with Puerto Ricans. But he won’t be affected.

“Some boxers might get a bit wobbly-kneed about the prospect, but Michael is a cool customer.

“Right from being a kid, I’ve always known that he could make it to the top.

“We are not going to beat about the bush, Michael is not going to break through this guy.

“But, one thing for sure is that he’ll keep up the same spirit from the first blow to the last blow.”

And what will Hughes offer as a final pep-talk to Jennings, as he exits his dressing room to enter the stage in the early hours of Sunday morning?

“I’ll remind Michael that this is his chance – his once-in-a-lifetime chance,” he said.

“He may never get another chance like it.

“I’ll tell him that he’s doing this for his girlfriend (Zoe) and two kids. This can set him up for life.

“He’s not getting as much money for this fight as you would think. But if he beats Cotto, he can start writing his own cheques.”