Luke is among the British elite

Luke Blackledge in action against Ishmael Tetteh last time out
Luke Blackledge in action against Ishmael Tetteh last time out
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Alex Matvienko believes Britain has produced a golden generation in the super-middleweight division.

The 38-year-old Elite Boxing coach, who won 15 of his 19 outings in the super welterweight category, is responsible for the rise of Luke Blackledge and considers Clitheroe’s Commonwealth champion to be among that pantheon of elite athletes.

Matvienko reminisced about an era that was fronted by the likes of Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn in the ‘90s while treasured fighters such as Joe Calzaghe and Carl Froch followed.

But the size of the talent pool at 168lbs has arguably made the weight the most competitive it has ever been on these shores.

Blackledge, who has been made mandatory challenger for the prestigious Lonsdale Belt, is fighting for supremacy in a division that harbours James DeGale, George Groves, future opponent Callum Smith, Martin Murray, Rocky Fielding, Paul Smith, Jamie Cox, Vijender Singh and Mark Heffron.

“At this moment in time he’s in the hardest position because super-middleweight is the toughest division,” said Matvienko.

“This is a great era at 168lbs, it’s a big division and the fighters within that are class.

“They’re all alpha males, they’re absolute beasts, they look like heavyweights but they move like lightweights.

“It’s an incredible division and the best in boxing at the moment. But Luke, at his best, can beat those rivals.”

Matvienko added: “It’s frightening how good it is. You see the era that Eubank and Benn were involved in and how esteemed it was - but I don’t think this era is getting the credit that it should be.

“All these lads are good fighters. It’s the most competitive it’s been because all the lads are young, talented and hungry. It’s not that long since Froch ruled the roost either.

“Luke has got the pedigree and experience to challenge. He’s shown us how good he can be.

“He came back from Germany after getting the better of a world title challenger (Tyron Zeuge) in sparring and his confidence is sky high.

“I do believe that one day he can go on to become a world champion.

“It won’t be easy though and he’ll have to go to hell and back to achieve it.”

Blackledge, however, has suffered a set back in his preparations to launch an assault on the division.

After the British Boxing Board of Control ordered reigning supremo Smith to defend his title against the 26-year-old Ribble Valley fighter before the end of November, Blackledge was involved in a road traffic collision.

“I’m gutted but we’re not yet sure how bad his injuries are,” Matvienko said.

“There aren’t any broken bones but he’s sore so we’ll have to see.

“It all depends on his rate of recovery and whether he’s capable of training for the date that they set. If not, we’ll have to submit a sick note.

“We will have to inform our manager (Steve Wood) and he’ll send a letter to the relevant people to notify them.

“It’s come at the worst time for Luke because this was a massive opportunity for him. His confidence was through the roof but there’s not much we can do at the minute.

“He’s a pretty fit lad though so he should recover quicker than the average person.

“It’s just a waiting game but whatever the outcome he’s still the mandatory challenger so he’ll still be at the front of the queue.”

Matvienko added: “We need to get back to work as soon as possible. He’s been ticking over but we need to get back on it properly and get him up to scratch.

“He’s at that stage of his career, and competing at such a high level, where we can’t afford to make any mistakes. We don’t want to take any backwards steps from here.”