Clitheroe boxer Blackledge warms up for Markussen with risky fight

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CHAMPION trainer Kevin Maree admits to have taken a risk in his bid to propel the career of burgeoning boxer Luke Blackledge.

With a trip to Denmark on the horizon, where a highly-anticipated contest with Rudy Markussen awaits, Maree has matched his potent protégé with big-hitting Elvis Dube tomorrow evening.

Almost three months have elapsed since Blackledge last stepped into the ring as he defeated Nathan King for the International Masters super-middleweight crown at Bolton’s Reebok Arena, a leading factor in Maree’s decision to set up tomorrow’s contest at the Wythenshawe Forum, Manchester.

Now Maree has his fingers crossed that all goes to plan in his bid to clear up any trails of ring rust in preparation for April’s voyage to Scandinavia.

“Elvis is quite a dangerous fighter,” stated Maree. “He knocked Carl Wild out cold once so we know he can bang. We are definitely taking a risk, but Luke needed something to keep him fresh and sharp because there was quite a gap between his last outing and the Markussen contest. Luke fights better the more active we keep him.

“There was the temptation to match him with a journeyman but it’s better this way. Markussen is a seriously big hitter so we’ve been working on a gameplan in the gym to contend with that. Matching Luke with Elvis will give us the chance to see how well prepared we are. That’s why we’ve paired him with a big hitter, so we can try a few things out.”

Maree added: “In terms of Friday’s fight I’m just looking for an improvement on his last outing. I’m hoping that he takes what we’ve learnt in the gym in to the ring. I’ll be in his corner praying for no cuts or injuries. It’s a massive risk but you don’t get anywhere if you don’t take them. I’m petrified already but these fights could put him in a really good position.”

Maree believes that victory at the Arena Nord in Frederikshavn on April 13th would lead to greater opportunities for Blackledge, similar to those enjoyed by British title-winning stablemate Kenny Anderson.

Blackledge beat Mads Larsen in his homeland, and Maree is backing his underdog, who is undefeated in 13 professional bouts, to do the business again: “We know Luke can’t be reckless against Markussen. Luke’s a really raw, tough, come forward, in your face fighter which will have it’s place in some bouts. But Rudy has seen it all before so Luke needs to be more subtle. We’ve been working on Luke’s defence and loosened him up on his feet. He’s looking really good to be honest.

“He’s only 22 and already knocking on the door of a British title. He’s phenomenally dedicated. He wants to learn and improve and these fights will stand him in good stead for the future.

“It’s another step up in class but I think they’re really underestimating Luke, hopefully to their detriment. Luke’s got an unbelievable desire and will to win. To beat him you’d have to pin him to the canvas and stand on him to keep him down!”