Reigning British middleweight champion Nick Blackwell remembers what it’s like to be a young underdog heading into a title fight, but insists his first challenger, Damon Jones, will need a lot more than just ambition and the confidence of youth when the pair clash at Derby Arena on Saturday (July 25).
Twenty-four-year-old Blackwell won his British title in May – stopping John Ryder in seven rounds – and he won it at the third time of asking, having come up short in previous title shots against Billy Joe Saunders and Martin Murray. Too young, too inexperienced and too raw at the time, he believes Jones will feel a similar sensation this weekend.
“Jones sounds confident, but he’s going to, isn’t he?” said Blackwell. “He’s going to be confident. He’s unbeaten, he’s had a good amateur background and he feels like he can outbox me. It would be weird if he came out and said he was just going to give it a go and didn’t have much hope. If he’s confident, he shouldn’t be involved in boxing and he definitely shouldn’t be fighting me on Saturday night.
“The thing is, it’s all well and good having confidence but that can all change when you get punched in the face. Then it tends to all go out the window.
“I felt invincible before my first two British title fights. I thought I could take on the world. But then reality hits home and you get in there with top opposition and realise the importance of experience. You can’t buy experience. It takes time to collect. I thought it wasn’t important at the time; I thought I’d just get in there and be too good for them. But I found out the hard way. I fought two men in Murray and Saunders who were more experienced than me and I didn’t quite know enough to beat them at the time.”
Now on top, Blackwell isn’t about to leave any stone unturned. That’s why the champion has worked harder than ever in training, and that’s why he’s adamant his belt will be heading back to Trowbridge with him.
“I’ve been sparring three different sparring partners and doing 12, 15 and 16 rounds with no difficulty at all,” he said. “I’ve been finishing those sessions and not even feeling tired. But the people I’ve been sparring have been the ones getting out the ring feeling knackered.
“The weight is good, the training has been spot on, and this is the best I’ve felt in my career. I feel a lot better than I did before the John Ryder fight in May.”
Blackwell expects Jones to give him a sterner test than Ryder, too, and says that for a few rounds his tall, rangy southpaw style and unshakeable self-belief may prove to be a factor in the contest. But then the champion believes he will start to take over and, ultimately, dominate.
“I’m expecting him to come flying out and not let me do anything,” he said. “He’ll bring a lot of nervous energy and he’ll be busy and he’ll try to stop me working. But I’ve got a different plan. I’ll show him the importance of experience.”
*** Tickets for Blackwell vs. Jones can be purchased from the Derby Arena Box Office on 01332 255800 or by visiting www.derbylive.co.uk ***
*** Blackwell vs. Jones will be televised live on Channel 5 on July 25 (10pm), while the supporting undercard will be televised live earlier in the evening (8pm) on Spike ***