Trainer Kevin Maree has tipped Luke Blackledge to become the region’s first world champion after his impressive showing in Denmark.
The 22-year-old raised his profile on a European platform following a courageous and indomitable display against highly-touted Swede Erik Skoglund despite enduring the first defeat of his professional career.
Ringside judges scored the ferocious 10-round battle 97-93, 96-94 and 96-95 in favour of the home fighter at Arena Nord in Frederikshavn but the unanimous result may prove to be the most defining of Blackledge’s promising province.
Maree’s protégé entered the ring to a chorus of boos from the Scandinavian support but left to a standing ovation after gaining their respect with a committed, whole-hearted and full-blooded performance.
Skoglund, who boasted nine knockouts from 15 outings and had never conceded a round, may have clinched the prestigious WBC Youth World & WBO Youth Intercontinental Light Heavyweight title, but Blackledge made a significant step up in class - from super middleweight - yet pushed him to the limit.
“He did me proud,” beamed Maree. “He’s definitely not done his reputation any harm. We knew the risk and it was definitely worth taking it. He came out with a lot of credit. It was a remarkable effort. Luke has learnt so much from that one fight. I’m devastated we got beat but really happy with how that will set him up in the future. Luke has got a world title in there somewhere.”