JUST like the man standing between him and the British and Commonwealth middleweight titles, Nick Blackwell is still regarded as an up and coming fighter.
But the Trowbridge man views himself as a seasoned warrior, for not only has he 13 pro bouts under his belt, his official record does not display the 18 unlicensed fights he undertook around Wiltshire as a youngster.
And ‘Bang Bang’ won all 18 with 16 stoppages along the way.
Former Olympian Billy Joe Saunders took a hugely different route to tomorrow night’s showdown at London’s ExCel Arena and Blackwell believes he steps into his double-title clash as a real contender.
“I’m 22 now and I’m feeling old because I’ve been doing it for seven years,” he said.
“(As an unlicensed fighter) I was fighting people who were two stone, two-and-a-half stone heavier than me when I was 16-years-old, without a headguard and 10oz gloves.
“Getting hit by people a lot heavier than me was a good experience to step into the pros.
“Getting another British and Commonwealth title fight is a big step in my career and I’ve got to win it to progress to what I want to be – if I lose, I’ve got to start all over again.”
Blackwell, who was the youngest-ever holder of the English middleweight belt, says that he is firmly on top of his game and ready to claim victory over Saunders.
The Contender Gym fighter also feels that his ambitious first shot at the British and Commonwealth titles against the world-class Martin Murray 18 months ago is a long way behind him.
“I’ve had two opportunities at the British title and I don’t want to let this slip because I might not get another one,” said Blackwell.
“Last time I was at my weight too early on and I had an injury and convinced myself not to pull out.
“But I know what to expect now in this fight – I think I’m a lot more mature, especially in the ring.
“Sometimes you go into a fight thinking ‘I could have done this a little bit better’ or ‘I could have done that a little bit better’ but this time I know I couldn’t have trained harder.
“If he beats me on the night, then fair play to him.
“This is the hardest training camp I’ve had and the best people I’ve ever sparred with too.
“I’ve worked hard for seven years and I’m sure I deserve it but I still never thought I’d be getting in the ring and sparring with someone like Carl Froch (IBF super-middleweight champion).
“It’s a life-changing fight for me and some people don’t realise that.”
Live Twitter updates from tomorrow’s fight on @WTSport