HE went from being the glamour boy of British boxing to Hollywood based actor sharing the screen with some of the world’s biggest stars.

From slugging it out with the likes of Chris Eubank, to dating some of the world’s most beautiful women, and impressing acclaimed directors like Oliver Stone... Gary Stretch has never forgotten where it all began and believes his upbringing in St Helens helped inspire his hunger for success.

Now, 45, nearly 20 years on from that defeat by Eubank and later hanging up his gloves, the screen star from Haresfinch was back in town. His return was to sprinkle a shower of stardust on the St Helens Discovers project which aims to dazzle the public with the town’s ‘hidden’ links to the movie industry.

The shivering temperatures as the former Cowley pupil stood waiting for a photo shoot were a far cry from sun-kissed LA.

But there was a warmth about Stretch that showed his old home has a place in his heart as he posed for pictures with youngsters and passers by.

He even picked out his former school dinner lady Elsie Coates from the passing crowds and gave her a big hug.

Speaking to the Star, Stretch – star of Stone’s Alexander and World Trade Center plus cult Brit movie Dead Man’s Shoes, described how a drama documentary he is making for theatre release, entitled the Safest Place on Earth, is inspired by how the ring helped him escape from his own insecurities He said: “Coming home brings the memories flooding back. I have some great ones and a few bad ones.

“The safest place on earth in my opinion was in the ring, which is the case for many fighters and crosses over into film, music – the safest place on earth was on the stage for Michael Jackson.

“So many great fighters or individuals come from tough backgrounds.

“All have a story to tell – most of them have been affected in some way and feel they have something to prove and it becomes a great driving force.”

The documentary will see Stretch interviewing a raft of stars from sport and screen, including the likes of Stone, actors Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke, and Mark Wahlberg, and boxers Manny Pacquiao, Ricky Hatton and David Haye.

Stretch added: “If there is a young boy from St Helens who wants to become a doctor but is going through a tough time he may watch this and think ‘I can be anything I want to be’.”

As well as Gary, the town has also helped launch the careers of Harry Potter director David Yates and big screen sound inventor George Groves.

At the heart of St Helens Discovers are three kaleidoscopes – in Church Square – showing the town’s famous faces.