Big opportunity doesn’t pay off as Clitheroe boxer Luke Blackledge is forced to retire

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Callum Smith (L) of Liverpool in action against Luke Blackledge of Darwen during their British Super-Middleweight Championship fight at Manchester Arena on December 10, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10: Callum Smith (L) of Liverpool in action against Luke Blackledge of Darwen during their British Super-Middleweight Championship fight at Manchester Arena on December 10, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Time simply wasn’t on Luke Blackledge’s side as the former Commonwealth champion was forced to retire by Germany’s Denis Radovan.

The 29-year-old, who was up at 15st when accepting promoter Nisse Sauerland’s invitation to appear at London’s O2 Arena, had just five weeks to prepare for an opponent who hadn’t lost in 13 fights as a professional.

The Clitheroe super-middleweight, who tipped the scales at 12st 8lbs at the weigh-in, coming in well over the regulatory parameters, had taken enough punishment in the first four rounds, moving his team to throw in the towel while he was on his stool.

Before Josh Taylor became the first Scotsman to unify world titles since Ken Buchanan in 1971, earning a majority decision victory over Regis Prograis in the World Super Series finale, Blackledge, as he had been for the 168lb edition, was one of the warm-up acts.

Radovan dropped his former sparring partner with a thudding right hand in the third round and had continued to dominate as the contest reached the halfway point.

After losing for the third time on the bounce, against a man he’d trained with at the Kienbaum Olympic Centre in Berlin when working with former WBA World champion Tyron Zeuge and coach Jurgen Brahmer, he said: “I feel alright.

“I knew he was good and I only had five weeks to prepare for the fight and I was up at 15st at the start of my camp. For me to be fighting an opponent of that calibre I need a 10-week camp.

“I know how dangerous he is, I spent a month with him in Germany, but I wanted to get in there and do it.

“I saw his quality when I was working with him every day, 180 amateur fights tells you how experienced he is. He had very good hand speed.

“I wasn’t sharp, I came in overweight, something I was fined for, and he capitalised on that. It was a big show, a big opportunity for me, but unfortunately it didn’t pay off. I’ve just got to get on with it now.”

Blackledge added: “He caught me with a good shot in the third round and I went down. I recovered straight away, but I suffered a cut above my eye and it wouldn’t stop bleeding.

“My trainer told me he was going to stop the fight at the end of the fourth round, I didn’t want him to, but there was no point in taking any more punishment for no reason, so the towel went in.

“I’m straight back in the gym now and I’ll be making sure that I’m ready for the next opportunity. I had five weeks to lose three stone, I weighed in at eight pounds over.”

Blackledge didn’t hang around for the main event as Taylor claimed the Muhammad Ali Trophy for winning the super lightweight tournament, while also claiming the WBC Diamond and Ring Magazine belts.

“It was mad busy so I just wanted to get in and out. I just want to get back up to being 100% now and then go from there.”