A break-out fight has been a long time coming for Liverpool’s super-welterweight hope JJ Metcalf and he does not intend to profligate, writes Glynn Evans.
Already 29, and senior ABA champion back in 2011, ‘Kid Shamrock’ has racked up 16 successive wins since entering the profession six years back but acquired few accolades prior to signing with Hall of Fame promoter Frank Warren earlier this year.
A brace of impressive stoppage victories later, the son of ex WBU king and legendary Scouse scrapper Shea Neary finds himself thrust into crossroads 10 rounder against fellow ABA titlist Damon Jones at the First Direct Arena in the latter’s hometown of Leeds on Saturday, shown live on BoxNation.
‘I finally feel my apprenticeship is over and it’s time to get serious,’ says the quiet, humble Liverpudlian.
‘I honestly believe I’ve been ready to go for a while. Over the last 12 months or so I’ve been matched with the likes of Mark Thompson and Bradley Pryce only for them to pull out.
‘But now, I’ve finally got my big chance and hopefully it can lead to a British title fight. From sparring with (ex WBO champ) Liam Smith, I’m confident that I can succeed at that level, whether (reigning champion) Liam Williams vacates or not.’
Opponent Jones is himself something of a ‘sleeper’. A 6ft southpaw, the ex seven time national amateur champion and former British middleweight challenger (lrsf6, Nick Blackwell, July 2015) will enjoy home court and, at 24, is sure to be bursting with ambition himself.
‘We actually won our ABA titles on the same day, so I’ve been aware of Damon for a while. I remember him as tricky and awkward with this decent bolo punch to the body,’ recalls Metcalf who is coached by the highly experienced triumvirate of Georgie Vaughan, Derry Mathews and Joe McNally.
‘Of course, southpaws are difficult. You’re used to using your right hand to block jabs whereas against the southpaw you need to use it to block their back hand which is generally more powerful.
‘But I’ll be well prepared. I’ve previously boxed three southpaws as a pro and I beat all of them. I’ve sparred plenty of rounds with (current Commonwealth middleweight champion) Sam Sheedy who’s an awkward southpaw, plus Tyrone McKenna and some sharp local amateur kids. I’m starting to feel more comfortable with them.
‘Fighting Jones in front of a passionate Leeds crowd won’t bother me. When I fought Tom Baker in the ABA final, his crowd were really mad – chucking stuff, spitting, hurling abuse – but I beat him handily enough and I was much younger and less experienced then. Going into the lion’s den spurs me on.
Both have started 16 times but, while Jones has contested a dozen more pro rounds, he’s yet to negotiate more than six in one hit whereas the Mersey man was extended eight by Cameroon hard case Serge Ambono and 10 by Atherton upset king William Warburton.
‘Both of us have had plenty of notice so there can be no excuses. I expect us both to be in perfect shape,’ continues JJ, who spent a fortnight preparing at the MTK gym in Marbella.
‘It’s going to be a tricky night to start off with. It could begin technical but I’m a far better boxer than people credit me. I’m confident that I’ll work Jones out eventually.
‘I expect to come on stronger as the fight goes on. It should ‘kick off’ at some point – I’m never in a dull fight – but I believe I’ve the skills needed to beat Damon, as well as the strength and power.
‘Above all, I’ve got a massive will to win, something I inherited from me dad! That’ll be the difference.’
Main event on the card sees Leeds hero Josh Warrington (25-0, 5 KOs) take on the undefeated Dennis Ceylan (18-0-2, 8 KOs) in a Final Eliminator for the IBF Featherweight World Title.
Chief support on an unmissable evening of action sees Huddersfield’s British Super-Lightweight Champion Tyrone Nurse (35-2-2,7 KOs) make a highly-anticipated defence of his crown against undefeated Chorley star Jack Catterall (18-0, 10 KOs).
Manchester prospect Zelfa Barrett (18-0, 11 KOs) takes on Chris Conwell (9-2, 2 KOs) for the Vacant English Super-Featherweight title; Leicester starlet Lyon Woodstock (9-0, 5 KOs) takes on Craig Poxton (13-4, 2 KOs) for the Vacant WBO European Super-Featherweight title.
An action-packed undercard also features British Middleweight Champion Tommy Langford (18-1, 6 KOs); former Commonwealth Games bronze medallist and GB squad standout Sam Maxwell (Super-Lightweight, 3-0, 2 KOs); Bradford Welterweight Darren Tetley (14-0, 5KOs); Chapel-en-le-Frith Cruiserweight Jack Massey (12-0, 6 KOs); Doncaster Featherweight Reece Mould (6-0, 2 KOs); Leeds Flyweight Jack Bateson (1-0, 1 KO) and the professional debut of Leeds fighter Jack Daniels.
Remaining tickets for Warrington v Ceylan are available from First Direct Arena www.firstdirectarena.com 0844 2481585