A DETERMINED boxer who fought off critics who told him he would never play sports is in line for a top award.
Rob Gray, 17, was born with talipes – a painful condition where the feet are back to front.
After many operations on both legs throughout his childhood, Rob decided to prove medics wrong and took up boxing at the age of 16.
Now, after winning his debut bout in December, Rob, of Ravensworth Avenue, Fence Houses, is set to scoop a top prize at the annual Durham Association for Young People awards.
Later this month, Rob will be crowned boy of the year and receive the Betty Woodward trophy after being nominated by Ken Allan, of Houghton Boxing Club, where he trains.
Ken said: “The awards are for youngsters who have done something outstanding and Rob has done just that.
“I’ve known him since he was in nursery school at the age of four as my son went there.
“He was sitting on the floor with his feet pointing the wrong way and he had cages on his feet.
“I know his struggle and I think when I look back, I never thought he would walk, never mind box, which he is really good at.
“He truly has something about him and is a real inspiration and really does deserve this award.”
Rob, who works at Ramside Hall, underwent the first of many operations at Sunderland Royal Hospital to fix his feet at just six weeks old.
Since then, he has had more than eight surgical procedures on both his legs and feet, as well as metal plates inserted to help straighten them.
Medics also inserted pins through his legs that twist to help gradually move the feet round.
Rob said: “It’s a huge surprise as I really didn’t think what I was doing was a big deal, I just got on with it.
“I guess if I’m helping other people out who have the same problem and they can see I’m doing this, then it’s a good thing.”
Rob has thrown his full weight behind his boxing and trains at the club four nights a week.
He goes to the gym another two nights a week.
“It’s great and I love it,” he said.
“I’ve got another fight in November and I’m busy training for that.”
The awards ceremony takes place on October 19 at the Ramside Hall Hotel.