“PEOPLE think being a professional boxer is like being a professional footballer. They assume you're making money, but every day is a struggle," writes Marc Gatford.

Somerset super featherweight Dean Dodge has a fight on his hands. Not only inside the ring on April 22 when he challenges for the vacant Southern Area title - but a fight for survival.

The leading promoters with TV contracts who stage shows in arenas are yet to recognise his talent and sign him to a deal.

Instead, Dodge boxes under the radar in leisure centres and hotels. Often the changing rooms are cramped, the crowds are sparse and the fighters struggle to break even.

The boxing business describes Dodge’s journey as coming up the hard way on the small-hall circuit.

Dodge knows that opportunities for high-profile, lucrative fights are reserved for winners and ticket sellers. As a result, he approaches every bout with the intensity of a cup final.

“If you're a professional footballer and you play badly you’ll be back out next week. But if you play badly in boxing and you lose, that can be it,” he said.

“No-one can watch you again, or buy tickets to watch you again, because who wants to back a loser? Not many people do, so you're always under pressure.”

Dodge feels it’s sink or swim, do or die, a game of snakes and ladders each time the opening bell clangs - lose and he can find himself back on square one.

Lose and the opportunities can dry up.

The immediate threat four weeks from fight night, however, is his unsold tickets. Dodge must also battle to keep himself afloat without a stable income.

The 28-year-old turned professional in 2017 and has amassed a 9-1 record. He says each day he’s "living out his dream". But the reality of balancing the cost of living with following his passion has reduced Dodge to his lowest ebb.

"Financially it's difficult, I've been homeless a few times, and I'm staying in a hostel situation, living in a shared house. But if I walked away now it would be a waste of all the years I've sacrificed,” he said.

"This fight means everything to me, win this fight and doors will hopefully open up for me. I'll get some better opportunities, maybe I'll have some fights for decent money because at the minute, even fighting for this Southern Area title fight, there's no money in it.”

On April 22, Dodge will walk to the centre of the ring inside London's York Hall on stronger foundations. He'll touch gloves and lock eyes with Westcountry rival Ryan Wheeler.

In that moment - local bragging rights, the Southern Area crown, and a future in the sport he describes as "all he knows" will be on the line.

"I’m telling you, any minute now things could pay off for me,” concluded the Somerset fighter coming up the hard way.