BOXING: Clitheroe champ Luke faces Zimbabwean puncher


THE next chapter of Clitheroe boxer Luke Blackledge’s burgeoning career has been scripted.

After landing the British Masters light-heavyweight title against Carl Wild, at De Vere Whites, at Bolton’s Reebok Stadium, earlier this month the 22-year-old powerhouse has been matched with Zimbabwean fighter Farai Musiyiwa at Hull’s City Hall tomorrow (Friday).

Blackledge, who trains alongside British super-middleweight champion Kenny Anderson at Maree Leisure in Gisburn, will go into the contest on the back of a stunning, knockout victory over former European champion Mads Larsen and a triumph over Wild, which further polished his professional record, now standing at 11 wins, to claim his first belt.

His opponent, who lives in Birmingham, scored knockout wins in his five opening pro bouts in his native Zimbabwe and has gone on to win 18 of his 31 bouts, boasting a 35 per cent knockout rate.

However, he hasn’t fought since December 2010, when he was floored by Ridas Vaivada at Coventry’s Hilton Hotel.

“I’ve heard he’s a puncher and he’s got a decent record,” said trainer Kevin Maree.

“At the moment we don’t know much about him but we’ll do our homework, and in the end we’ll know as much as what he’s having for breakfast.

“What we do know is of the 18 fights he’s won, he’s knocked out 11 of his opponents. He’s jumped at the opportunity to fight someone of Luke’s calibre.”

Maree added: “It’s a new task for Luke because we’re delving into the unknown. I’m trying to match him up with as many opponents as possible, all with contrasting styles, so we can mould him in to a more rounded fighter and move him closer to becoming the finished article.”

Maree admits he’s working on an unfinished canvas but, with the schooling, the necessary training, and several intricate tweaks, the unbeaten prospect, now ranked seventh in the UK, could become a masterpiece.

“Luke goes into the ring always looking to knock someone out, which is great, until you come up against somebody capable of weathering the storm. We need to work on a Plan B.

“We’ll be working on his ring craft, looking at steadying his defence, assessing where his head and hands should be and when, looking at how to pace a fight. We want him to be more aware, ring savvy and to be able to plan fights without taking unnecessary risks. We can’t afford for every fight to be a war.”

“His improvement has been massive,” Maree added. “He’s probably slightly ahead of where he should be in terms of development. He’s only 22 and already boasts a perfect record from 11 contests and has moved within the top 10 in the country. Every time we set him a task he comes through it.”

And after watching Blackledge’s stablemate Anderson take the British crown with a fifth-round stoppage over former world champion Robin Reid at Sheffield’s Motorpoint Arena, Maree is hoping to line-up similar success for his talented protégé.

He said: “Luke’s manager Steve Woods has a lot of faith in him. At the moment we’re looking at maybe five more fights before taking the next step. I’d put Luke in with Rocky Fielding tomorrow. We’d love a shot at that English title.”