Luke longing for the Lonsdale Belt

Luke Blackledge has his eyes on the prize. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard
Luke Blackledge has his eyes on the prize. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

Defeat to Callum Smith has only heightened Luke Blackledge’s hunger to own boxing’s prestigious Lonsdale Belt.

The 26-year-old suffered his first loss under coach Alex Matvienko when looking to dethrone the British champion last month on the undercard of Anthony Joshua’s triumph over Eric Molina at the Manchester Arena.

The Clitheroe super-middleweight went 10 rounds with “Mundo” before being dropped unceremoniously with a thumping left hook that turned out the lights.

“I was confident against Callum Smith,” he said. “I didn’t think he was that good but he’s a world class fighter. He’s big and as strong as an ox and he’ll take some stopping. He was a dangerous fighter and it just shows the difference in levels.

“The fight plan was to stick it on him late on. I’d avoided his counter left hook throughout the fight, which had been drilled in to me for 10 weeks, but then I got caught with it. I threw the right hand but I didn’t roll and I paid the price.

“I was absolutely devastated. He caught me with a few big body shots earlier on but there was no way that I would lie down and quit. Whoever fights me knows that they’re in for a tough time.”

The 168lb pugilist feels that he was unfortunate to face an opponent of such calibre at that level with Smith set to contest more lucrative titles.

Joe Gallagher’s student, signed with Matchroom, is the mandatory challenger for the winner of James DeGale and Badou Jack’s world title-unifying scrap at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, this weekend.

“It’s a big step because he’s at world level and I’m around British/European,” Blackledge said. “He would beat Badou Jack. It took me by surprise a bit and I may have underestimated him slightly. He really is that good.

“I’m disappointed because I wanted to win. I’m a winner and I’m always confident. It just shows the levels in boxing but it was an opportunity that I couldn’t turn down.

“I shouldn’t have been fighting Smith at that level. He’ll be a world champion next year. I should be fighting Jahmaine Smyle or David Brophy. I’m ready for anybody at domestic level.”

With Smith ready to break through the domestic ceiling, Blackledge is waiting in the wings for another shot at the title once the holder relinquishes his prize.

An opportunity to reclaim his old Commonwealth title may also be in the offing with the Boxing Council looking to map out current champion Zac Dunn’s path.

“I want to fight in about six weeks time,” he said. “There’s a show on February 10th at Bowlers Exhibition Centre so I’ve asked my manager, Steve Wood, if he can get me on that.

“I go to Thailand on February 16th so ideally I want to get out before then. I know a few promoters over there as well so hopefully I can fight out there.

“It’s just to keep me ticking over, a chance to get another run out, because I’m due another big fight.”

Blackledge added: “I’m still the number one contender for the British title once Callum Smith vacates the belt. I’m also mandatory for my old Commonwealth title as well. There are loads of big fights out there for me. I’ve already had Zac Dunn and Vijender Singh calling me out.

“I will win that British title without a doubt. I will get my chance again and I will win the Lonsdale Belt. I know for a fact that I’ll win it.”