Lewis Crocker insists that he is ready and willing to take on his Irish rival, Paddy Donovan, next after beating Conah Walker over 10 sizzling rounds on Saturday night. 

The welterweight contenders produced one of the fights of the year in Birmingham and although Belfast’s Crocker emerged the victor, both he and Walker left the ring with their reputations enhanced. 

After a spiky build-up, both fighters were able to accomplish everything they set out to do but found the other man to be tougher, fitter and even more determined than they could have possibly imagined. 

As he said he would do before the fight, Crocker was able to regularly hit Walker with the type of ferocious power punches that have stopped lesser men in their tracks but the 29 year-old from Wolverhampton absorbed them all and continued to press forward.

For his part, Walker was somehow able to maintain a hot pace throughout the fight and took Crocker to places he had never been before. Rather than crumbling under the pressure as Walker had suggested he might, Crocker stayed with him every step of the way and was still digging his toes into the canvas and firing in hard combinations as the final bell sounded. 

After 10 tremendous rounds, the judges preferred Crocker’s clean, heavy punching over Walker’s buzzsaw attacks and awarded him a close but unanimous decision victory. 

“He came forward which made me have to box a few rounds. I was using my jab lovely. It was a great fight and one that I thought I won by two or maybe three rounds. It was a good fight and a tough test. Fair play to Conah Walker,” Crocker, 27, said after the fight.

“I feel like I hit him with the bigger shots. I hurt him a couple of times while I was never hurt in the fight. His pressure was very good and we gave a good fight for the fans.

“We gained each other’s respect and it’ll only be respect going forward between me and him. He’ll for sure come back, he’ll get a belt and who knows, down the years maybe we can get it on.

“I’m a 147lbs fighter. I believe I’m two fights away from a world title and I’m ready for whatever’s next.”

It seems increasingly likely that one of those two fights will be a fascinating all-Ireland clash with the unbeaten Donovan, 14-0 (11 KOs). The slick southpaw from Limerick stopped Lewis Ritson last month and, as both fighters now have clear diaries, the way could be clear for a late autumn showdown. Crocker, 20-0 (11 KOs), knows that a meeting between the two is inevitable.

“100 per cent. I think it’s the biggest fight in Ireland so we’ll definitely get it on. Whether it’s next or whether it’s two fights, it doesn’t matter. We’ll get it on,” he said before learning that Donovan – who was seated at ringside – had stated that neither Crocker or Walker would be able to live with him.

“Oh, let’s go. I’ll fight him next, no problem. I don’t think it’s safe for him. Let’s see,” he said.

“I’ll fight whoever. Eddie Hearn knows that I’m the man. I’ll fight anyone, no matter the name and no matter who it is. I’m ready to fight. Whatever name it is, let’s do it.”