Jimmy Sweeney faces possibly his toughest test yet as he looks to hang onto his world middleweight title – and top spot in bareknuckle boxing’s pound-for-pound ratings.
Sweeney defends his belt against Birmingham’s Kris Trezise at London’s O2 Indigo on Saturday, June 9 and will be aiming to prove size doesn’t matters.
Trezise stands a lofty 6ft 3ins tall – six inches taller than the champion.
“I’ve fought a lot of taller guys in amateur boxing,” said the 33 year-old Irishman, “and you don’t mind taking one to land one in amateur boxing.
“You can’t really do that when you box bareknuckle. You have to be smart. He is big and awkward, but he doesn’t have the amateur boxing background I have. I’m looking to get in his head, confuse him – and beat him.”
In 19 previous fights, only Julian Lane has beaten Sweeney – and he reversed that loss in Liverpool in March.
“My career was on the line that night,” he said.
“If I didn’t win that fight, that was the end of me in bareknuckle boxing.
“There was a lot of pressure on me going into that fight, but I dealt with it. He wanted a war, but I just stuck to my boxing and got the win.”
Sweeney made his legal bareknuckle debut three years ago – in June, 2015 – and made quite an impression.
“I had two fights on the same night,” he said, “and won them both by knock out.
“Nobody knew who I was before that night – and getting two knockouts on the same night let people know what I was all about.”
He has since established himself as the sport’s No 1 and is keen to push on.
“I don’t get hit much and I want to be in this sport for another four or five years,” he said.
“When I started there was no money in the sport and the fighters were unskilled pub fighters, local hard men who fancied having a go.
“But the level has gone up. Now we have ex pros making decent money – and we are going to get more big names coming.
“I’ve done my bit for the sport and want to do more.
“When I retire, I want people to say: ‘He fought good fighters who were at the top,’ I want to be known as someone who fought good fighters. I don’t have any special targets – just anyone with a big name.”