NICK Blackwell has no qualms admitting that he’ll be feeling the nerves when his life-changing British and Commonwealth title showdown with Billy Joe Saunders comes around next week.
But the Trowbridge star believes that those pre-fight jitters are the tell-tale sign that he is ready to unleash a show-stopping performance.
The 22-year-old is ready to take on unbeaten former Olympian Saunders for the country’s two biggest middleweight belts at London’s ExCel Arena on December 15, looking to banish the memory of his ambitious but ultimately unsuccessful bid for those titles against Martin Murray 18 months ago.
‘Bang Bang’ Blackwell successfully defended the English middleweight belt and won the WBC Youth Silver title in his last two outings.
And after the most gruelling training camp of his life, the Contender Gym fighter, nerves and all, is ready for his day of destiny.
“I like being under a bit of pressure,” he said.
“I know that I’m going to be nervous on the day and I know I’m going to perform well.
“For some of the fights I’ve had in Trowbridge, I haven’t been nervous and it plays mind games, making me think ‘why am I not nervous?’ “The more nervous I get, the harder I train and if I’m not nervous, I get it in my head that I’m not going to perform well.
“I know that if I am nervous, I’ll perform spot on.
“When you’re in your changing room getting warmed up, that’s the worst bit but as soon as you walk out and it’s just you and him in the ring, it all goes.
“Adrenaline takes over and you’re obviously not nervous when someone’s punching you in the face – you just want to punch them back.
“I’ve got the pressure on me. The weigh-in is in his gym and I’m going to be called out to that tunnel ten minutes too early but I’m expecting all that. Everything’s going to be against me, so bring it on.”
Saunders, 23, who is part of a Hertfordshire traveller community, represented Great Britain at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and has tasted victory in all of his 15 bouts since turning professional.
But Blackwell feels that his opponent has never been given a proper test in the ring and is in for a rude awakening during next week’s televised show.
“I don’t think he’s been in with anyone that’s pushed him. The closest was Bradley Pryce and he’s past it now,” he said.
“He hasn’t even been hit properly and he’s never gone 12 rounds in the trenches in the pro ranks.
“It’s different to the amateurs.
“I’m preparing for one outcome – I’m going to go in there and beat him up.
“I’m going to put him through the paces and I don’t think he’s got it in him.
“I’ve been sparring for 15 rounds with seven or eight partners and not feeling tired so my fitness is there and I’m peaking right.
“It’s just another person stopping me from being where I want to be and I’m 100 per cent confident that I’ll bring that belt back to Trowbridge.”
- The December 15 ExCel card, including Blackwell’s fight, will be televised on the subscription channel BoxNation (Sky 437, Virgin 546)