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Boxer turned trainer Jason Cunningham, who won British, European and Commonwealth titles during a 12-year professional career, is no stranger to fighting.

But after the birth of the 34-year-old’s son four months premature, he and his family have had to gear up for a completely different sort of battle – one completely out of their hands.

Jason’s partner, Bec, also 34, only found out in mid-March that she was five months pregnant with the couple’s second child together.

That discovery came a week before the ex-boxer’s first fight as a head trainer was due to take place.

Days later, after experiencing stomach pains, Bec went into labour and gave birth to Cheance John Cunningham on 19 March at Hull Royal Infirmary.

Cheance weighed just 1.5 lbs (680g) – little more than a pair of boxing gloves.

‘Massive shock’

The couple, from Woodlands in Doncaster, were told Cheance had a 45% chance of survival – which inspired their choice of name for the new addition to the family.

“It was a massive shock,” said Bec, a mother of two daughters, including 17-month-old Talia who she had with Jason.

“I don’t think we really got a chance to get our heads around it.”

However, Jason, who also has a daughter from a previous relationship, said that Cheance was now “improving day by day”.

“He’s in the best hands with the best care possible,” he added.

“There’s nothing we can do. It’s his little battle.”

According to Bliss, a charity for children born premature or sick, 60,000 babies were born early in the UK each year.

Most premature births are spontaneous, with no clear cause, and many babies need urgent neo-natal care after birth.

Research from the World Bank showed the UK had one of the highest rates of premature birth in the world.

‘Craziest week’

Cheance was finally taken off a ventilator just under a week ago, but staff at Hull Royal Infirmary’s maternity unit have told his proud parents he has a long road ahead.

Bec had been unable to hold her baby boy for the first 10 days of his life and the couple did not know when they could finally bring him home.

But Bec, who was about to complete her training to become a men’s hairdresser when she discovered she was pregnant, said Cheance was “doing amazing”.

“It’s hard because we can’t do anything for him. I can’t even feed him. You feel helpless,” she said.

Meanwhile, amid what he described as the “craziest week of my life”, Jason coached his fighter Jimmy Joe Flint to victory in the ring on 23 March – just days after Cheance was born.

Flint labelled his coach a “legend” for his “unbelievable” contribution to the shock win against Campbell Hatton, son of British boxing legend Ricky Hatton.

Jason has a tattoo across his chest which reads: “The underdog who never lost hope” – a fitting metaphor, perhaps, for a 39-fight career spent battling against the odds.

Now, it seems, it is his son’s turn – and, according to Jason, Cheance had so far shown every sign of following in the tradition set by his dad.

“With how his life has started, he’s come out a fighter,” he said.


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