Luke Blackledge’s defeat to Erik Skoglund in 2013 has acted as a barometer for how much work he’ll have to put it ahead of his British title shot in November.
The 26-year-old, who recently vacated his Commonwealth title for a dream pursuit of the Lonsdale Belt, lost out to a unanimous decision against the Scandinavian when battling for the vacant WBC Youth World light heavyweight crown at Arena Nord in Denmark.
Blackledge was able to sustain his work rate and productivity throughout a gruelling 10-round battle thanks to a punishing programme set by former coach Kevin Maree.
The Elite Boxer was thrown in at the deep end where sparring was concerned, spending prolonged spells in the ring with big-hitting cruiserweights Tony Bellew and Matty Askin.
Now faced with one of the best prospects in the super-middleweight division, Blackledge knows he’ll have to step it up again if he’s to threaten Callum Smith’s reign.
“Callum Smith is a class act and I’ve got to be on my game 100%,” he said. “Me and my team know what we’ve got to do to win this fight.
“I’ll be getting some world class sparring in to get me ready and I’ll be going through hell in training.
“That’s what I’m willing to do in order to come out on top. We’ll be looking at Tony Bellew, Nathan Cleverly, Mark Heffron, Erik Skoglund and Matty Askin.
“They are all big punchers and that will provide the perfect preparation for Smith, who is by far the best fighter I will have gone up against. I want to make it as tough as possible for myself in sparring. I want them to put it on me.”
The Elite boxer added: “I sparred with Tony Bellew and Matty Askin for about 40 rounds each before the Skoglund fight. I just came up short on that occasion and that’s because I had moved up to light-heavyweight.
“I know I’ll have to work even harder this time around. I’ll have to spar with world class fighters and put the graft in.
“They are all a similar size. They’re big and strong with a good jab. Smith has got good timing, good distance and decent footwork.
“He’s a great all round fighter. He’s clever with his feints, lands body shots well and what he does is very effective. You don’t see many fighters like him.
“Erik Skoglund is a world class fighter and he’s competed for titles at the top level. After fighting him I know what I’m going to have to put my body through this time.
“That fight taught me a lot. People are writing me off but I’m the number one challenger and I’m determined to prove why.”
In preparation, Blackledge is hoping to remedy the ring rust by getting a run out in September. The Clitheroe fighter is ready to pull out all the stops to give himself a chance after witnessing Smith dismantle Rocky Fielding late last year.
“Everything is going good,” he said. “I’ve recovered from illness, the weight is starting to come down and I’m looking forward to getting back to work.
“I want to get out in September and get a few rounds under my belt because I don’t want to wait until November when I fight for the British title.
“That’ll still give me six or seven weeks to prepare afterwards. It’ll be important to get in there beforehand, in a real fight situation, to get the ring rust off.”
He finished: “We will leave no stone unturned. I won’t be going down like the rest of Smith’s opponents and I won’t be rolling over.
“I’ll be going for it because I’m a winner. I know he won’t give me a second. If he catches you and hurts you he’ll be on you like a rash.
“Rocky Fielding is a very good fighter and that’s what he did to him. He caught him cold in the first round and there’s no coming back from that against world class finishers like Smith. It’s game over.
“We’ve both got good teams around us, Joe Gallagher is certainly no mug, so it should be a war.”