Alen Babic says he hopes Niall Kennedy will put up a good fight, so he can put on a performance to honour the memory of his hero, Joe Frazier, on Sunday in Milton Keynes.
The 29-year-old Croatian heavyweight, who has been given the nickname Savage, in honour of his fearsome style, goes for his fifth professional win against Kennedy and is happy that the Irishman is promising to take him “into the trenches”.
However, Babic does not feel that Kennedy is of the level of Shawndell Winters, whom he battered to defeat in two rounds last month. This week was the 45th anniversary of the epic Thrilla in Manila between Frazier and Muhammad Ali and it is a landmark that hasn’t passed Babic by.
“Joe Frazier was always my idol and always will be, because of his humbleness and his ruthlessness in the ring,” Babic said. “That’s what I try to mimic.
“I like Niall, don’t get me wrong, but he never knocked out anybody. Shawndell was a top knock-out artist, he is nowhere near.
“I would just like it to be a better opponent, someone from the top 20 or 30, then we can redo the Thrilla in Manila. If Niall can just set up those trenches, I can ravage them. I would really like it to be an honest, noble fist fight. I don’t want him to go back and wait to be knocked out, I want him to fight.”
Babic is excited by his growing popularity with the boxing public, who have been impressed by his honesty and no-nonsense style, as well as his willingness to call out anybody, notably fellow Croatian Filip Hrgovic.
“People know me, people accept me for who I am,” he said. “I speak like I am, so I have nothing to hide.
“I can’t switch it off. The Savage does what the F he wants. I just hope it is with me in my important fights. It’s not a guarantee. He is a f--king lunatic, he’s crazy.
“It was my brother Dillian Whyte [who gave me the name]. We were at out first sparring session and it was just five rounds, but it was an absolute war. I said to him ‘we are going to spar tomorrow’. And he said ‘no, go away, I don’t want to see you, you are a savage. I don’t want to see your face’.
“And he started to call me Savage all the time and after four or five days, it caught on. He recognised that in me.”
Despite his willingness to fight Hrgovic, if he gets past Kennedy it seems likely that Tom Little will be next.
“I don’t care who I fight,” Babic said. “I call out Hrgovic every day. I call him out every day of my life, I can’t go much quicker than that.
“I ask fans who do they want me to fight. They always say the same names – Dave Allen, Tom Little, Lucas Browne, Nick Webb, some Kash Ali guy. I like Tom Little, he is almost as crazy as me, I think we are going to box on November 21.”
Babic also said that Whyte has returned stringer than ever to training after his knockout by Alexander Povetkin and he expects his training partner to get revenge on November 21.
“It didn’t affect us at all because Dillian such a tough man,” Babic said. “After the fight, Dillian looked crisp and sharp and Povetkin was the one who looked shook up. And Dillian is good, he’s come back to training even stronger. I don’t think Povetkin has anything else to give and Dillian has a lot to give.”
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for Boxing Scene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.