By Elliot Foster
James Metcalf has long been in the shadows of his famous father –– though many may not make the connections.
The undefeated super-welterweight is understated –– and that is something of an understatement –– and has been going about his business quietly yet confidently and perhaps more importantly competently.
‘Kid Shamrock’, the 29-year-old son of ‘The Shamrock Express’ Shea Neary, enters the ring for the 17th time as a professional on Saturday, looking to finally put his stamp on a domestic division littered with rising stars.
Metcalf fights Damon Jones at the First Direct Arena in Leeds, exclusively live on BT Sport and BoxNation, in an official eliminator for the British title which is currently held by Liam Williams.
Welshman Williams faces Metcalf’s fellow Scouser Liam Smith in a rematch of their April showdown on November 11 at the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle and the hope within the camp is that he frees up the Lonsdale belt to allow those below him to progress, seeing as his fight with Smith is a final eliminator for the WBO world title currently in the possession of Miguel Cotto.
Should that not come, however, the prize for a victory against Jones is already set: a fight with Ted Cheeseman, the current English champion, in a final eliminator for what is often regarded as the best belt in the sport.
“It’s great to finally be being talked about,” Metcalf, who fights Jones on the undercard of Josh Warrington’s IBF featherweight title final eliminator showdown against Dennis Ceylan, told Boxing Scene.
“Everything has gone perfect –– the training, the sparring, the running –– and I can’t wait now.
“I’m fighting in Leeds against a fighter from Leeds and I’m really excited. I’ll thrive on the pressure that that brings but I’ll also take it in my stride.
“I’m going in to the lions’ den and I think I’ll like it. It’s nothing new to me –– I boxed in the ABAs in London against [former Southern Area super-middleweight and English light-heavyweight champion] Tom Baker and the crowd were throwing things into the ring, but it really doesn’t bother me and I’m a million per cent sure that it won’t influence fight night.”
It’s not long before the word ‘Dad’ is mentioned during our sit down at a plush Liverpool hotel. An ever-present figure since day one, the former WBU super-lightweight champion has been by his son’s side without fail.
“My Dad is a massive part of me, both inside and outside of boxing,” Metcalf added. “Everything I do, I speak to him about, every bit of advice, he gives me and everything I’ve done he’s been there overseeing it and I couldn’t ask for a better trainer as well as a Dad.”
An unsung hero in the camp of ‘Jay Jay’ is George Vaughan, the Scouse stalwart with a wealth of experience.
And Metcalf praises the ex-mentor of Derry Mathews, calling his experience ‘priceless’.
“He’s been around the game for so long now and his experience helps everyone. You can sit there and listen to him for hours. He’s 79, nearly 80 now, but he’s still got his wits about him and having him around can only help.”
Finally, it was time to assess the competition. With Cheeseman in sight and Smith and Williams also around, Metcalf is keen to put on a solid display as he looks to outline his right to be spoken about in the upper echelons of the 154-pound class domestically.
But he insists that his focus is solely on Damon Jones, the former British middleweight title challenger.
“I think there are a number of good fights that can be made at my weight,” he said. “Obviously, you’ve got Smith and Williams but behind them there are about six or seven lads waiting to push their careers forward on to British, European and world title level.
“Ted Cheeseman, I’ve not seen much of him. I watched his last two fights, the one last weekend and the one before, but you can’t really take too much from what you’re seeing with him because he’s not in with much.
“I’ve just got to get through this fight at the weekend and then I’m ready for anyone.
“I’d like to do it properly –– take the British, Commonwealth, European and world title route –– but whatever the team tell me to take I’ll take.
“I wouldn’t mind getting out again, providing I beat Damon Jones, just before Christmas and then really kick on at the beginning of next year.
“I’d love to be out again for a bit of Christmas wages, even if it’s just a six-rounder, but you never know it could be a British title fight before Christmas and I’d definitely take the Cheeseman fight on the Bellew-Haye II card [on December 17 at the O2 Arena in London] if it was on the table.”