Pompey legend Tony Oakey wants fight fans to get behind Lucas Ballingall as he sets out to put the city back on the boxing map.
Oakey will be at Havant Leisure Centre a week on Saturday (JUNE 29) when Ballingall challenges Jeffrey Ofori for the Southern Area lightweight championship.
Oakey was a hero in the city and beyond during a 36-fight ring career that brought him British, Commonwealth and WBU world light-heavyweight honours.
He’s ruled out ever fighting again after sharing two fights with Jeff Lacy – and is instead going to cheer on the city’s next generation, including Ballingall and brother Michael McKinson.
McKinson has won welterweight honours and now it’s the turn of his younger brother to step up in what looks like a good fight.
Ballingall and Ofori both go into the scheduled 10-round fight unbeaten – and Oakey is confident the 22 year old from Portsmouth will come through and go on to give local fans more to cheer.
Oakey said: “Portsmouth fans, whether it’s football or boxing, have always got behind their own.
“The atmosphere when I fought at the Mountbatten Centre and in London was electric and I hope everyone gets behind Lucas the way they got behind me.
“Portsmouth is a boxing city, but it’s been a bit quiet recently. Michael (Ballingall) is doing his best and there’s a good group of lads now who can hopefully reignite the boxing scene.
“Lucas has the talent to reignite boxing in the city.
“I’m not just saying this because Michael (Ballingall’s dad) is one of my best mates. I’ve seen Lucas in the gym and I’ve watched most of his fights. I know he’s got potential.
“I believe he can win the Southern Area title and progress from there.
“Lucas is very, very talented and I just hope he doesn’t start believing his own hype because people think a lot of him.
“He has to keep working hard.
“I believe he’s special. He has that fighter’s mentality you need. If it gets hard, he doesn’t buckle, he digs in and technically, he’s good. He’s slick, can punch and from what I’ve seen so far, he doesn’t look vulnerable.”
Oakey sees the fight with Ofori as Ballingall’s chance to take his career to the next level.
“As far as I can see, Lucas ticks all the boxes,” said Oakey, “and now he just needs a break.
“Once you’re the Southern Area champion, they can’t ignore you.
“I do think Lucas will win, but it’s not going to be easy.”
Oakey revealed he has been watching Ballingall throw punches since he was a toddler.
“I used to see Lucas and Michael (McKinson) scrapping like cats and dogs when they were kids,” he said.
“I’ve watched them grow up. I feel like their uncle and I want to see them make their boyhood dreams come true, the way I made mine come true.
“Bruce Lee was always my hero. I only started boxing after I watched Mike Tyson beat Trevor Berbick for the world heavyweight title (in November, 1986). I thought: ‘I want to do that, be like him’ and I went on to have big fights and make memories nobody can take away from me.
“I want to see Lucas and Michael do the same.”