BOXING coach Kevin Maree believes Luke Blackledge’s disheartening stalemate last year could prove to be the defining moment of his career.
The powerhouse 22-year-old had seemingly suffered a significant setback when failing to topple Zimbabwean foe Farai Musiyiwa at Hull’s City Hall in November, but that result transpired to be the tonic needed for Blackledge to push on in the professional ranks.
“His recent stalemate could prove to be one of the best and most significant outcomes of his career,” said Maree. “Defeats wake people up and it’s happened to a lot of great fighters. We got away with a draw so to have that unbeaten record still in tact is brilliant. He got caught up riding the crest of a wave, with Kenny Anderson winning his title, but it was the wake up call he needed. Rather than being despondent he wanted to put it right. He’s learnt from his own mistakes and profited from them.”
Maree added: “I wouldn’t expect him to be where he is at this stage of his career,” Maree admitted. “He’s in the gym three times a day now, always asking questions, always wanting to push himself, spar with the best and always wanting to get in to the ring. I can’t fault him. He’s a breath of fresh air. He’s already got two titles which is great at 22. He’s turned his life around through boxing.
“I think Luke is the only top 10 European fighter across the weight divisions to be as young as 22. He’s improving at a rapid rate and he’s going to learn and develop dramatically in his upcoming fights. He’s got all the attributes to go all the way.”
Blackledge, already a two-time title winner and ranked number seven in Britain, recently warmed up for his highly-anticipated clash with Denmark’s Rudy Markussen with the fourth round stoppage of Scott Edgar at the Wythenshawe Forum, a result that delighted his trainer.
“The risk paid off to a tee,” Maree beamed. “It couldn’t have gone any better. It was good to see things we’ve been working on in the gym implemented in the fight. Luke was relentless at times, gung-ho, but he barely got hit which was great and to get the stoppage was a bonus. He got the rounds in as well so we’re happy.”
Blackledge will now face hard-hitting Rudy Markussen at Arena Nord in Frederikshavn on April 13th, praying for a similar outcome to that in his contest against fellow Scandanavian Mads Larsen just nine months ago.
“We are still six weeks away from the fight,” said Maree. “He’s going to get fitter and stronger during that period and his weight will be better. All those will be an added extra on top of Friday’s performance. With all due respect, his last opponent was nowhere near the calibre of Rudy because he’s a world class operator. This fight could propel him to stardom.”
Maree added: “Luke is exuberant and a good pressure fighter. We’re hoping for the same result as he picked up against Mads Larsen. The good thing about Luke is that he’ll never quit. He’s relentless, he’s got heart, determination and a burning will to win.
“This is such a massive fight. He’s really up against it. He’s a ridiculous underdog, the odds are stacked against him, but we’ll be backing him. There’s no pressure on him because there’s no expectation but I really feel he’s going to pull it off otherwise I wouldn’t be getting on that plane to Denmark.”