By Brock Ellis, Photos by Werner 'Kid' Kalin
WILL Tomlinson has patiently waited in the mythical line of contenders who have been yearning for an opportunity to stake their claim amongst the elite in the super-featherweight division. An impressive win over South Africa's Malcolm Klassen will potentially stamp Tomlinson's ticket to the front of the queue.
On Thursday night (AEST) at the eloquent Melbourne Pavilion, Australia's IBO super-featherweight titlist "Wild" Will Tomlinson hopes to continue his upward trajectory as he is challenged by former IBF super-featherweight titleholder Malcolm "Stone" Klassen in what is regarded as is toughest challenge to date.
The card, promoted by Fidel Tukel's 'Empire Fight Promotions' will be televised live nationwide via Fox Sports Australia.
Tomlinson, 26, is regarded as somewhat of a dark horse in the talent ridden super-featherweight division that boasts the likes of Japanese firebrand and reigning WBA champion Takashi Uchiyama, along with Puerto Rico's controversial WBO titlist Roman Martinez as well as the recently crowned champions Argenis Mendez, who holds the IBF belt and WBC champion Takashi Miura - not to mention the division's kingpin in Cuban Yuriorkis Gamboa.
Since turning professional in 2008, Tomlinson has rocketed to notoriety, earning a collection of belts and a plethora of endorsements, none more impressive than the deal Tomlinson signed with sporting giant Nike and their Australian headquarters last year - making him the first and only Australian boxer to earn privilege of representing the iconic swoosh in the squared circle.
Having already made two successful defenses of the IBO strap he wrestled from Alan Herrera in spectacular fashion in 2011 - the boxing world is beginning to notice the quietly spoken and overly respectful Australian, who is beginning to make a name for himself with his actions and not with his words. In spite of his burgeoning popular and super-featherweight championship belt, many see Tomlinson as a somewhat unproven prospect, largely because he has dismissed his recent opponents with relative ease.
Enter Malcolm Klassen.
A man who has not lost in four years, with that blemish falling at the hands of Robert Guerrero - who famously traded leather with the sport's leader in Floyd Mayweather earlier this month.
"I’m very excited for this fight. Klassen is a very classy fighter and I’m expecting a good fight out of him." said Tomlinson. "However, I’m feeling very positive about the fight and I’m ready to rise to the challenge and do whatever I have to do to remain the champ. I will win this fight, I just want to make sure it’s in spectacular fashion."
With a comprehensive victory over Klassen (27-5-2, 14 KOs), a man who has never tasted a knockout defeat in a storied career spanning over a decade, Tomlinson (20-0-1, 12 KOs) can potentially earmark himself as the man to watch as he continues his quest to lure one of his fellow world champions into a mouth-watering unification bout.
"All the world champions in my division are solid champions, but if I was given the shot to fight any of them I would take it in a heartbeat. I truly believe I beat them all. Hopefully, with the opportunity I will be given after this fight I will prove that." explained Tomlinson. "My (major) goal this year is add another belt to my collection. I want to be the first Australian-born undisputed champion of the world"
While Australia has had the honour of having two undisputed and unified world champions in adoped Aussies Kostya Tszyu and more recently Vic Darchinyan, never has an Australian-born fighter conquered such a remarkable feat. With the exception of Daniel Geale - who had a brief spell as the unified IBF and WBA middleweight titlist last year, it has been a long-time coming for Australia and it's home grown talent.
There is no doubting Klassen's resume and his undoubted ability to potentially cause an upset tonight. Although Tomlinson's super-featherweight championship will be on the line, there is no mistaking what is also at stake here - legitimacy.
Which in itself is something worth fighting for.
Follow Brock Ellis on Twitter @brockellis01