The names of Carl Froch, George Groves and Rocky Fielding adorn the Commonwealth’s register of champions. Now Luke Blackledge accompanies the aforementioned trio after landing the title in the 168lb division.
The 24-year-old super-middleweight overcame Liam Cameron at Blackburn’s King George’s Hall unanimously, with ringside judges Michael Alexander, Howard John Foster and Mark Lyson scoring the contest 117-112, 116-113 and 115-114 respectively.
While Blackledge climbed to seventh in the British rankings, the ‘Cannonball’ plummeted to 11th, though his opponent may not be the only Cameron vacating number 10 ahead of next month’s General Election.
Alex Matvienko’s student, who has become a more measured and rounded fighter since switching to the Elite Boxing base in Bolton, executed a meticulous game plan to precision, cutting off the ring and suffocating Tobias Webb’s conqueror.
The IBO Youth supremo was unable to escape his defensive shell, with elbows tight and hands held high, when smothered by Blackledge’s unrelenting, restrictive bursts against the ropes.
Imprisoned in the ring’s perimeter, Cameron’s only hope of a reprieve was that fatigue would eventually catch up with the WBC International Silver champion. It didn’t. Blackledge’s stamina levels remained at exceptional heights throughout the bout.
After continuously smashing the ribs and working nicely to the head, the noise inside the venue escalated in the seventh round as acknowledgement filtered through that there wouldn’t be a repeat of November 23rd, 2013, when Rocky Fielding inflicted defeat.
With Rovers midfielder David Dunn and British heavyweight champion Tyson Fury in attendance, Blackledge countered Cameron’s attempted counter-punches well in the eighth, continued to accelerate and exert the pressure in the ninth, while comfortably withstanding his opponent’s late flurry, and change of ploy, until the culmination of the 12th round.
“The Commonwealth belt is beautiful,” he said. “I take a lot of pride in owning that. It’s sat next to my bed now and it might even come on holiday with me! I’m chuffed with it. All the hard work paid off.
“About 18 months ago I lost to Rocky Fielding fighting for that same belt. It just shows what can be achieved if you stay dedicated and motivated. You’ve just got to keep working hard.
“It was unbelievable. It was like a big weight lifted off my shoulders when I won. It felt like I’d wiped the slate clean after that last defeat. I’ve achieved what I set out to achieve now. I’ve always had a dream of becoming Commonwealth champion. This is what I’ve always wanted.
“I’m in the top 10 in Britain and the top 50 in the world. I’m the Commonwealth champion and I’m in the WBC rankings. I’ve achieved all that without an amateur background because I’ve stayed dedicated.”
Blackledge added: “I had to cut him off and pressure him for 12 rounds. I just stayed on him. I did everything I could to stay close to him. Everything came off. That was the game plan. If you’re not fit for a fight like that then you don’t deserve to be there.
You’ve got to be fit when you’re fighting at that level. I’ve got a good engine anyway and my work rate has always been very good. That’s just natural to me; it’s my strength.
I’m chuffed with it. All the hard work paid offLuke Blackledge
“He couldn’t cope with it. For eight weeks I had it drilled in to me about cutting the ring off, pressurising him and staying on his chest. He didn’t know how to deal with that. Even at range I was out-boxing him though. The game plan worked.
“It wasn’t an easy fight because he was very tough. He came to win it and he surprised me how much he wanted it. Obviously I wanted it that bit more on the night. He was in tears after the fight. One of us had to lose and it’s not nice when you’ve put that much in to it. That’s the aim of the game though.
“In the later rounds he caught me with a good few shots and came on strong. But I dug deep and battled hard to get the win. It was the best I’ve stuck to a game plan.”
In the aftermath, Blackledge revealed that WBO European title-holder Frank Buglioni has already been in touch regarding a future contest.
Buglioni, promoted by Frank Warren, is set to make the second defence of his strap at Wembley Arena in May, with Blackledge now the recipient of an invitation to face him in the country’s capital.
However, with just weeks to prepare, the 24-year-old is understandable apprehensive about accepting the request. “There’s no rush now,” he said. “But Buglioni has been in touch.
“I’m still feeling the affects of a tough 12-round battle against Liam Cameron and this fight is next month. I’m up for the fight, I’d do it, even if it’s in London. It’d be a tough 50/50 fight. But it’s only a month off and the terms needs to be better.”
For now he’ll continue reeling in the biggest achievement of his professional boxing career: “I’d like to defend this belt eventually but I’d also like a shot at the British title because the Lonsdale belt is also beautiful. I would love to get another TV fight. I feel like I can go a long way.
“I’m only 24 so I can go on to achieve even more success. I think I can go far. My dream is to fight for a world title and become a world champion. It’s a long journey but I’ll put the graft in. I’ve just got to stay disciplined and committed.
“There’s some big names that have had this belt before and that definitely gives me hope. They are all top fighters and now I’m on that list with them.”