British middleweight champion Nick Blackwell says regular sparring sessions with IBF world super-middleweight champion James DeGale have more than prepared him for his November 14 title defence against Elliott Matthews and that there’s nothing the unbeaten challenger can show him in Bristol that he won’t have seen before.
Blackwell meets Matthews, his third southpaw opponent on the trot, at the City Academy, but spars with DeGale, a world-class southpaw, have left him feeling buoyant about the task ahead.
“DeGale is one of the best lads I’ve ever been in the ring with,” said Blackwell. “He’s fast, he’s got a good boxing brain and he’s always fit. He also hits incredibly hard as well – a lot harder than people give him credit for.
“When I first sparred him, I went in there and thought, I’ll just walk through him and bully him about a bit. But it wasn’t that easy. I couldn’t get over how hard he hit. He was really snappy with his shots.
“I’m sparring both DeGale and Jake Ball, a light-heavyweight southpaw. Jake’s also a very good fighter with a top amateur background. You’ve got to be on your game and 100% focused when you spar guys like this. They’re top calibre.”
In contrast to DeGale, Blackwell’s next challenger, Elliott Matthews, is unbeaten in sixteen professional fights and has yet to really test himself at top domestic level. By Blackwell’s way of thinking, if he can deal with a world champion like DeGale in sparring, he should have few problems with Matthews come November 14.
“Elliott Matthews is a good fighter, but he hasn’t got anything on James DeGale,” said Blackwell. “If I can hang with DeGale and have success against DeGale, I should be ok with Matthews.
“It’s great sparring for a fight like this. You can’t really get better southpaw sparring in this country than James DeGale. Not only is he a southpaw, he’s also a super-middleweight, so naturally bigger than I am.
“If I was fighting the best in the world, you’d still consider DeGale and Ball to be top-level sparring. You couldn’t ask for better. But to have this kind of world-class sparring before a British title fight is priceless.”
*** For tickets to BANG BANG: The Knockout Kings, please contact the Ticketline Box Office on 0844 888 4402, the Sanigar Events Box Office on 0117 949 6699 or visit www.hennessysports.com ***
*** Blackwell vs. Matthews will be televised exclusively on Channel 5 from 10 pm, Saturday, November 14. Meanwhile, Hughie Lewis Fury, Craig Kennedy and a pick of the Bristol undercard will be televised earlier in the evening on Spike ***