By Paul Mulvey
Will Tomlinson says he's served his time on the undercard and, now he's a world boxing champion, it's his time to get noticed.
But Australia's IBO super featherweight champion has a tough introduction to the spotlight in his first title defence against Mexican boxer Daniel Ruiz on Friday night in Melbourne.
Rated as the best of Australia's young generation of fighters, Tomlinson has the chance to take some of the attention once dominated by Anthony Mundine and Danny Green if he can beat the accomplished Ruiz.
Both are attacking front-foot fighters and even veteran American referee Steve Smoger says he's excited about getting into the ring with "two of the best super featherweights in the world".
Smoger has seen how tough 25-year-old Tomlinson is first-hand, presiding over his brutal title win against Ruiz' friend and training partner Alan Herrera in Perth last November.
But that was on Green's undercard. Now the Victorian is the main attraction.
"I've had to serve my time and start down the bottom on everyone's undercards," he said.
"This is finally my opportunity to break away from undercards and start putting on my own shows and be the centre of attention.
"This is my time to show everyone what I'm about."
He's already shown he's a skilful boxer, but his toughness stood out to Smoger who has shared the ring with the likes of Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis.
Even though Herrera inflicted cuts to Tomlinson's face which needed 30 stitches, the Australian peered through the blood to claim a unanimous points decision.
"I was most impressed with his heart," Smoger said.
"Anyone who's cut in three places and keeps going and wins is very impressive."
But Smoger also knows intimately how good the fighters who roll off the Mexican production line are.
Ruiz, 22, trains with a bevy of world champions in Los Mochis and has an impressive 19 knockouts among his 27 wins and four losses.
Tomlinson is unbeaten in 19 fights, including 12 knockouts, and says he's not fazed by the tips Herrera has passed on to Ruiz.
"There's no advice Alan Herrera could give Daniel Ruiz that could help him on Friday night," he said.
The versatile Tomlinson is confident he has the variety to combat whatever Ruiz can throw at him, whether it's fighting toe-to-toe, counter punching or "if I have to box and move, I'll box and move".
And Smoger does not stop fights early, so the sellout crowd of around 2000 at the Melbourne Pavilion in Flemington will be guaranteed a contest.
Tags: Will Tomlinson