Clitheroe boxer Blackledge lined up for British title shot

Luke Blackledge and Alex Matvienko. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard
Luke Blackledge and Alex Matvienko. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard
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Clitheroe's Luke Blackledge has been named as the mandatory challenger for Callum Smith's British title.

The British Boxing Board of Control has put the contest to purse bids and, once a promoter has been identified, the bout has been ordered to take place by the end of November.

Luke Blackledge in action against Ishmael Tetteh last time out

Luke Blackledge in action against Ishmael Tetteh last time out

The Liverpudlian holder claimed the beautiful Lonsdale Belt when flooring Rocky Fielding inside a round at the Echo Arena in November. Smith, ranked third in the United Kingdom, has since claimed the EBU (European) super middleweight strap when stopping Hadillah Mohoumadi in April before adding the scalp of Argentinian Cesar Hernan Reynoso to his resume.

That CV, paired with talk of the WBC pushing Smith as the mandatory challenger for Badou Jack's World title, has led Blackledge's coach Alex Matvienko to infer that Joe Gallagher's prized pugilist will relinquish his crown.

"The board have made Luke the mandatory challenger for Callum Smith's British title. It goes down to purse bids now so it's dependent on who wants to promote the fight. It's got to happen before November but I feel Callum may relinquish his belt.

"I think it's a very hard fight for Luke; an extremely tough challenge," said the former professional. "Callum has proven that he's one of the best fighters in the world but everyone can be beaten if you believe. I know Luke would be up for the fight if he gets in the ring with Callum."

The Elite Boxing coach added: "Callum might not buy in to the fight, though. He may see it as a step back when looking at records. Luke lost in one round to Rocky Fielding whereas Callum beat Rocky in the opening round. I was in Rocky's corner the night he fought Luke and it would've been a different fight had Luke not been caught with that freak shot.

"Luke is much better than what he gets credit for. He's been to Denmark and fought Erik Skoglund, who is a light heavyweight. He fought Mads Larsen as well and beat him in his own back yard. Luke is more than capable of giving Callum a tough test. He's got the style to challenge him.

"I fully expect Callum to step on to the next level, though. He's already been beating world class opposition and they're talking about pairing him with Badou Jack. If that happens then Luke would fight for the vacant title."

At present the plan is for Blackledge to defend his Commonwealth title for a third time in September. After the 25-year-old withdrew from Saturday's show at Manchester's Victoria Warehouse through injury, Matvienko said: "His next fight is going to be another title defence. I think he's frustrated with himself that he's not been active enough but I certainly want to get him out more. He's fit as a fiddle and everything was going well building towards his last fight but he injured his hand in Germany.

"Luke has hardly lost a round in seven fights now. He's been unbelievable. They've been very good learning fights for him and he's learning a lot from his training camps too. He's picked up a lot of confidence and experience from his recent run. He's been training and sparring with world class fighters in Spain and Germany which has helped him to improve massively. He's done some incredible things."