Amir Khan stopped short of calling Saturday's WBA title defence against Paul McCloskey a warm-up fight but admits he has one eye on a big summer unification clash with Timothy Bradley.
The Bolton fighter meets Northern Irishman McCloskey at the MEN Arena in Manchester in a voluntary defence which has attracted criticism in some quarters. While Dungiven's McCloskey is unbeaten and the reigning European champion, he is perceived as a step down in calibre for Khan, whose last fight was a superb win over Argentinian banger Marcos Maidana and who is looking at major names in America next.
Khan is confident those blockbusters will come - starting with WBC and WBO champion Bradley in the summer - but maintains southpaw McCloskey is a credible opponent for his first fight on British soil since December 2009.
"McCloskey wasn't on my radar until after the Maidana fight," Khan said. "I wanted the winner of Devon Alexander v Timothy Bradley (which Bradley won in January) but I thought it was too long a gap to wait and that I might as well have a fight in between.
"Looking at the world rankings, McCloskey's name was there. So I thought 'why don't I fight a British guy, from Northern Ireland, who is going to bring a great big following and who people from England know too, instead of an American opponent who nobody knows here?' So that's what we chose.
"You can never take any fight easy but Maidana is heavy handed and I don't think McCloskey hits as hard. But he is going to be smarter than Maidana, I know that. He's a southpaw, too, which makes it a little bit awkward.
"But I think it's a fight that can take me to bigger and better things. Winning this will take me to Bradley.
"We want to get this fight done first. There's no point looking too far ahead."
Khan hopes his partnership with American promotional giants Golden Boy can help negotiations with Bradley go smoothly.
He told Press Association Sport: "We know what we want but we're not in talks about it yet.
"I want to get this guy (McCloskey) out the way and then as soon as I have got him out the way then Golden Boy Promotions, who I'm with, can negotiate the big fight against Bradley and hopefully we can get that down in America or maybe here, which would be amazing.
"Boxing is a business so it's whatever makes financial sense. I'll go with the flow, I've got a team to do that job for me. I'm happy to fight anywhere, I don't mind fighting in America or here, although I'd like to have it here.
"I did promise my fans at home I was going to bring big fights over here."
McCloskey, who boasts a 22-fight unbeaten record, has defended his world title credentials.
"With me being European champion and the highest ranked European fighter in the world, it was the most natural fight to have over here for Khan," he told Press Association Sport.
"From a negotiating point of view they held all the aces but I'm happy enough with what I've got (financially) and where I'm at. The deal was set up and my team was happy enough with it.
"The opportunity here is amazing. Being honest with you, a couple of years ago I would have fought Amir Khan for nothing, just to prove the point. But actually that is not the case now, I've got a right to have this fight, I have earned the right to be here.
"I hope they are looking by me. You never know."Tags: Timothy Bradley , Amir Khan , Khan-Bradley , Khan vs Bradley