AN inspirational teenage boxer has been chosen as the face of a big new drive to encourage young people to lead healthier lifestyles.

Rhys McCole was talking at the launch of the new Inch by Inch campaign, which aims to combat poverty and improve young people's diets.

He spoke to local pupils at Inverclyde Academy about the health difficulties he faced growing up, and told them that he was put on the right path in life by joining a boxing club.

Now the 18-year-old hopes to use his own experiences to help young people in own community.

Rhys said: "When I was growing up I faced huge health problems and I was always in hospital unwell.

"But when I joined Greenock Boxing Club it changed everything.

"I changed my diet and I was always training."

Rhys is now running boxing training for pupils at Inverclyde Academy and his old school Notre Dame High.

He overcame a number of disabilities and multiple holes in the heart to become a huge success in and out of the ring.

Now he will promote the Inch by Inch push as it rolls out in the area.

The campaign will spend the next few months in Inverclyde running workshops and working with young people to help them make healthier choices.

Rhys says he is 'very proud to be a part of the campaign'.

He said: "I really want to help young people in my community and do whatever I can.

"Having a healthy diet is so important.

"I want to use my own experiences to help young people.

"I wouldn't be where I am today without Greenock Boxing Club and all the others who have supported me all the way like the Greenock Telegraph."

Inverclyde has some of the highest levels of child poverty in the country and 28 per cent of primary school pupils in Inverclyde are eligible for free school meals.

This is compared to a national average of 20 per cent.

The Inch by Inch campaign aims to change things for the better and Inverclyde MP Ronnie Cowan says he is backing the campaign.

He said: “Inch by Inch is a welcome opportunity to help educate and inspire young people to change their eating habits.

"Good habits formed at an early age will stand them in good stead for life.

"While a third of all kids in Scotland are at risk of being overweight, programmes like this will help us reduce the childhood obesity figures by half by the year 2030, in line with the Scottish Government strategy.”

The body behind Inch by Inch is non-profit organisation working with both the public and private sector in local authorities across Scotland.

Vice-chair Gerry Donnachie spoke at the local launch, held at Inverclyde Academy and praised ambassador Rhys.

He said: "We are delighted to have Rhys McCole on board, he is an incredible young man."