Luke Blackledge shares the belief that Callum Smith is capable of challenging on the world stage - but has urged Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn to be patient with his prized asset.
The 25-year-old Commonwealth king tuned in from Germany to see Smith make history with a breath-taking performance against Rocky Fielding at the Echo Arena in Liverpool.
The new British champion at super-middleweight, the fourth Smith sibling to don the prestigious Lonsdale Belt, dismantled his fellow Merseysider inside a single round to make a huge statement in the division.
While some suggest that Joe Gallagher’s pugilist should jump in with America’s Badou Jack, who could yet face a unification bout with James DeGale in the future, George Groves or the victor of the clash between Arthur Abraham and Martin Murray on November 21st, Blackledge believes Smith needs to bide his time and stay protected to an extent before making his assent to the top.
“Callum Smith is a beast,” said Blackledge. “He caught Rocky cold early on and he jumped on it. He’s very good and he’s massive for a super-middleweight. The size of him is unbelievable and he evn made Rocky look quite small.
“I think he shocked a lot of people and he certainly shocked me with that performance. I won’t be rushing to fight him anyway. He’s definitely heading towards world title level now after that display.
“Rocky is a great fighter but he got nailed with a great shot in the first round which can happen to anyone. It was a good finish from Smith but Rocky didn’t quit and he showed a lot of heart to keep getting up. He was hit with some horrible body shots.”
Blackledge added: “Rocky is still up there for me but Callum has opened up a bit of a gulf now. There’s a lot of fighters stepping it up and improving at our level. I’ve been doing some technique sparring with Arthur Abraham and he couldn’t believe how advanced I was for my age. It’s good to get those kind of compliments from the best.
“Callum is still young, he’s only my age. He doesn’t have to rush anything. He is definitely beyond British level but I would defend that and have another year learning.
“There’s big fights awaiting him in the future with Groves, Murray and eventually DeGale. There are some very good super-middleweight match ups for him - over in America too. It’s the best division there is.”
Blackledge is currently training at the Bundesleistungszentrum Kienbaum facility alongside Abraham ahead of the Armenian’s WBO World title defence against Murray at the Tui Arena in Hannover.
Alex Matvienko’s student has been watching the 168lb division unfold and is looking forward to making an impact himself with a second defence of his Commonwealth crown expected soon.
“It’s got loads of champions in here so it’s a great environment to be in,” he said. “I’m training with them, running with them and sparring with them so it’s all beneficial. It’s a proper environment to be in. They want me to stay on for even longer now as well.
“I would like to step in and fight for the British when Callum decides to make that step up and put my Commonwealth belt on the line too.
“I’ve still got a couple more fights in me yet and another defence to make before stepping up to European level. That’s the dream though.
“I need to think about what’s the best move and I’ll sit down with my team to discuss it. The division is wide open now, particularly at the level that I’m at.
“There’s a top three or four who are at world level with James DeGale, Martin Murray, George Groves and now Smith.”
l DeGale takes on Lucian Bute in an IBF World super-middleweight showdown in Quebec on November 28th.