In nearly 10 years as a professional boxer former Commonwealth champion Luke Blackledge has shared the ring with no less than eight world champions.
The 29-year-old super-middleweight has never shied away from a challenge since making his debut against Stewart Tordoff at Robin Park Centre in Wigan in 2010.
Blackledge has been under the lights with Danish ‘Golden Boy’ Mads Larsen, former WBA World supremo Rocky Fielding and the World Boxing Association’s reigning Super World champion at 168lbs, Callum Smith.
He’s also traded blows with Billy Joe Saunders, Carl Froch, Arthur Abraham, Tony Bellew and Tyrone Zeuge during high octane sparring sessions.
“I’ve sparred with six world champions [including Fielding],” he said. “Billy Joe Saunders was probably the best. He’s very good.
“His trainer [previously Dominic Ingle] told me that I was one of the best fighters to go in with him and keep the pressure on. I just stuck it on him from round one, I went at him.
“They offered me more sparring afterwards. The best fighter I’ve been in with is either Callum Smith or Rocky Fielding. For me, I’d say Rocky hit harder. He’s got so much power.”
Blackledge now has the opportunity to add a ninth name to his already impressive CV. The Clitheroe-born professional is currently mulling over his options, but flying out to Melbourne, Australia, to train with Zac Dunn is one of them.
The pair could have met in 2016 when Blackledge was bidding to win his Commonwealth strap outright with a third successful defence.
He’d seen off Liam Cameron, Lee Markham and Ghanaian Ishmael Tetteh and was on the verge of matching the achievements of fellow super-middleweights Froch and George Groves.
However, having been given an ultimatum by the British Boxing Board of Control, he challenged Smith for the British title at the Manchester Arena while Dunn went on to take his crown.
Blackledge said: “I’ve been offered the opportunity to go to Australia. That’s still an option. It’s in Melbourne so I’d like to go out there with the family.
“I was supposed to fight him for the Commonwealth title previously. In the end David Brophy ended up going over there and beating him.
“The phone hasn’t stopped ringing so I’m just going to try and stay active. There are plenty of options on the table for me to consider.”
Blackledge already has a date pencilled in with ‘Jimmy’ Kilrain Kelly at The Point, located at Lancashire County Cricket Club, on April 4th.
But he wants to get his first fight of 2020 under his belt beforehand. He had been lined up to face James Kraft in Hamburg last month before the bout was unexpectedly pulled.
“Everything for the trip to Germany was confirmed,” said Blackledge. “The flights were booked and we were ready to go.
“However, having been offered the fight at late notice, the BBBofC contacted us to say there wasn’t enough time to process the fight. It didn’t get sanctioned and I was devastated.”
He added: “I’m going to knock Jimmy Kelly out. He’s a good kid, I’ve sparred him before, and I know what he’s about.
“He’s fought for a world title, he’s always fought at the highest level, so it should be a good fight. I’m only fighting top lads.”
Fortunately, other doors have opened and Blackledge may be back in action sooner than he first thought.
A deal to fight Willy Hutchinson at York Hall next month is being considered.
Scotsman Hutchinson, known as ‘Braveheart’, has a 70 percent knockout ratio from an unblemished record.
The 21-year-old, managed by Shelly Finkel and trained at the famous Wincobank gym in Sheffield by Dominic Ingle, previously won European Junior and World Youth Amateur titles, which made him the first Scot to win a world amateur gold medal.
“I’ve been offered a fight against Willy Hutchinson at York Hall in a few week’s time,” Blackledge finished.
“He was a world class amateur and would have been in the Team GB squad for the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in 2018. He’s a good lad and it’ll be a tough fight, but I’ll fight any man anywhere.”