Luke Blackledge’s suspicions may have been heightened after Matchroom officially announced that he’d challenge Callum Smith’s reign as British champion.
The former super-middleweight Commonwealth king predicted that ‘Mundo’ may grow complacent ahead of their contest at the Manchester Arena on December 10th, live on Sky Sports Box Office, with assurances of a world title tilt in 2017.
Blackledge, who trains under Alex Matvienko at Elite Boxing in Bolton, is hoping to capitalise on that distraction, with the expectation that the current holder of the Lonsdale Belt will have one eye on the future.
Merseysider Smith, who has won all 20 of his outings in the professional ranks, with 16 of those coming within the distance, is the mandatory for the winner of the unification battle between IBF champion James DeGale MBE and WBC king Badou Jack who meet in Brooklyn on January 14th.
Blackledge will want to derail Smith’s plans and rip the British belt from him, which the 26-year-old won in spectacular fashion 12 months ago when he knocked out local rival Rocky Fielding in Liverpool inside a round.
The throne’s current incumbent appeared almost passive in his comments about his next opponent at 168lbs with the onus on his world title shot.
“Luke is a good fighter, he comes to win, he’s game and durable and it promises to be a cracking fight,” said Smith. “I’m proud to be British champion and I’ll defend it until I can get a fight for a World title.
“It was good to see James and Badou finally get their fight signed. I was in Washington in April when they both defended their titles and agreed to meet in a unification and I didn’t think it would take this long for the fight to happen.
“I didn’t think I’d have three fights before getting my chance to fight for the World title but they’re ready to fight and while it’s been a bit frustrating, I’ve been active and learning all the time and it’s exciting that I will be fighting for a World title next year.
“It’s a win-win for me. If Jack wins it’ll probably be in Vegas and that’s every fighter’s dream to fight for a World title in Vegas, but if James wins, which I think he will, then that’s a massive domestic fight and we’ve seen that the British fans love those events.”
Smith’s clash with Blackledge is part of a huge night of action in Manchester as Anthony Joshua MBE defends his IBF World Heavyweight title against Eric Molina.
Dillian Whyte faces bitter London rival Dereck Chisora in an official eliminator for the WBC Heavyweight title, Scott Quigg returns to action after treatment on his broken jaw following his unification blockbuster with Carl Frampton, and the Bury star moves up to Featherweight as he looks to regain his status as a World champion.
Kal Yafai can become Birmingham’s first World champion but the unbeaten 27-year-old faces a tough task to rip the WBA Super-Flyweight title against Luis Concepcion, the two-weight World champion that will enter the ring in his 11th World title outing.
Irish amateur sensation Katie Taylor boxes for the second time in the paid ranks after making her pro debut at The SSE Arena, Wembley, at the end of November, Heavyweight wrecking ball ‘King Kong’ Luis Ortiz fights in Europe for the second time after clashing with Malik Scott in Monte-Carlo on November 12th and Hosea Burton will defend his British Light-Heavyweight title against Frank Buglioni.