By John Evans
The term ‘nothing to lose’ has many applications when discussing boxing. Whether you are talking about a fighter entering the final rounds of a bout trailing on points or a late notice substitute receiving an unexpected opportunity, the saying holds true. Trowbridge’s Nick Blackwell found himself in a classic no-lose situation when — as an eight fight novice — he stepped into the ring to contest the vacant British middleweight title with accomplished WBA title challenger Martin Murray last June.
Blackwell fought bravely, but was ultimately outgunned and withdrawn by his corner after five tough rounds. Rather than dwell on the defeat, Blackwell insists that the Murray fight was a great learning experience and — having rattled off four straight, inside the distance victories since — the results seem to back up his claims.
“I was inexperienced. I got a lot of things wrong, but I learnt so much (from the Murray fight),” Blackwell told BoxingScene recently. “Every fight I’ve had since that, I’ve stopped (the opponent) so that shows just how much I’ve learnt. I wouldn’t change it for the world to be honest. I was sparring Paul Smith a couple of weeks before and pulled a muscle in my rib and every time Martin smacked me in the body — well, I knew I’d done pretty much all I could in the first three rounds. I know I should have pulled out, but he’s ranked up there in world class now. I leant a lot from that fight
“I’ve got my weight spot on now. I struggle to get down to middleweight now whereas I was a small middleweight before and should have been a light middleweight to be fair (Blackwell weighed in at156lb for the Murray fight). I’ve got good sparring with people like Chris Eubank Jr and Tony Hill and training is going spot on. I can’t wait to get back out now.”
Former English champion Blackwell, now 12-1 (6), is obviously itching to get the new season underway and add a more prestigious title to the WBC Youth Silver middleweight belt he picked up in his most recent bout with Mikheil Khutsishvili (W RTD1).
He said: “A few things have come up. Martin Murray is supposed to be vacating the British title so obviously I could have fight for that in October but it depends who I’d be fighting against. Billy Joe Saunders is already defending his Commonwealth title so we’ll have to see.”
There is also another opportunity on Blackwell’s radar, one that has so far received scant publicity but would provide him with some major international exposure. Details are still vague but Blackwell has been nominated as Britain’s middleweight representative in the proposed WBC World Cup.
“It’s due to start in February in Las Vegas. It’s a super sixteen tournament in each weight class,” reveals Blackwell. “One person from Britain gets selected from each division. I know Lee Haskins has been selected at flyweight, but it’s being kept quiet at the minute I think.
“It was supposed to happen in September but because they didn’t have enough funding it’s been moved to February. I think it’ll be a fight every two or three months. You’ve got one lad from middleweight from each country fighting together so it’ll be nice if it all comes off.”
It’s an interesting time for the British middleweight division. While the established trio of Murray, Matthew Macklin and Darren Barker attempt to position themselves for a world title shot the next generation of Blackwell, Billy Joe Saunders, Chris Eubank Jr and John Ryder promise an exciting future for the 160lb class. Blackwell hopes to be competing with the established names over the next 18 months, but is happy to share his thoughts on the other challengers he is likely to face.
“It’s good,” says ‘Big Bang’ enthusiastically. “It’s a competitive division. There are quite a few up and coming middleweights now. I’d like to be up there with the top three but obviously Billy Joe Saunders has done pretty well but I don’t think he’s fought anybody who’s put him under pressure and I think he’s had it quite easy. Chris Eubank Jr’s had it quite easy at the minute too. It’ll be nice when they do step up and fight somebody half decent to see how they perform. There’s Kerry Hope too but he hasn’t got any power.
“I’ve sparred with Ryan Aston loads of times and the more I sparred with him the more I was hurting him. He’s still got that amateur style and like boxing on the outside and has a bit of a dodgy chin that got proved in his last fight (the previously unbeaten Aston was knocked out by Carl Valentine in July).”
The confident Blackwell could be set for a season to remember and hopes to ensure that the next time he is involved in a high profile fight, he does have something to lose.