Tony Bellew is within "touching distance" of a WBC light-heavyweight title shot after it was confirmed he will fight in a final eliminator against Isaac Chilemba.
The 30-year-old Liverpudlian will face the Malawian on March 30 at the Echo Arena in his home city in a showdown for the right to challenge champion Chad Dawson.
Bellew's only professional loss was a close points defeat in an arguably premature challenge against WBO champion Nathan Cleverly in 2011.
The fiery Scouser has rebuilt admirably since then and knows he is on the verge of something special, but first he must overcome 25-year-old Chilemba (20-1-1, 9KOs) in what he predicts will be his toughest test.
"I'm really close to a world title shot now and we're within touching distance of it," 'Bomber' said.
"You don't fight final eliminators against guys at this level if you're not any good, so it's a big test but one I think I can come through.
"This is the biggest test of my career and I really believe Isaac Chilemba is the most complete fighter I've fought. He's got good defence, good speed, reasonable power, good footwork.
"He's got a whole lot of skills. He's shown he can get up off the floor and win, he's shown he can beat good fighters such as Edison Miranda and he's drawn with Thomas Oosthuizen.
"He's a good fighter and nobody gets an easy touch for a world title final eliminator. But if he's not at his best, I'll blow him away."
"I've done it the hard way by beating good guys who are ranked above me.
"It's now time to go out there and prove myself, and I believe I'll do that."
Bellew (19-1, 12KOs) relaxed over Christmas ahead of a punishing training camp but is desperate to get going again.
"I can't wait to start punching someone," he said. "It's been a long time.
"I hate being out of the gym and I've been barred from there over Christmas, so I had to slip into other gyms to train.
"I did the right things over Christmas and had a bit of food and drink and a laugh with the boys, but it's time for work now.
"You have to man up and go through the pain, and I'll do that because I know I'm within touching distance of the full WBC title."Tags: Chad Dawson , Tony Bellew , Isaac Chilemba , Bellew-Chilemba , Bellew vs Chilemba