Cardiff based Nick Blackwell boosted by Gary Lockett’s guidance

Cardiff based Nick Blackwell boosted by Gary Lockett’s guidance

With Barry’s Lee Selby on a mission to become IBF world featherweight champion and Blackwood’s Craig Evans’ in a potential breakthrough bout for the British lightweight belt, Matchroom Sport’s blockbuster show on 30 May could be one of Wales’ most memorable nights in recent history. There’s bonus Welsh interest on the Sky Sports Box Office televised show from Nick Blackwell (16-3-1, 6KO) who, for the last two months, has been living and training in Cardiff in preparation for his third attempt to become British middleweight champion. Originally from Trowbridge in Wiltshire [not it’s namesake in east Cardiff], Blackwell spends Monday to Friday in a city centre hotel and he couldn’t be happier with his new set up 70 miles from home. Speaking about the solitude of training camp, he said: “You know what, I had to think about it [moving] because I didn’t think I’d like being out of my comfort zone but if you wanna be the best and get the best out of yourself, you’ve got to do that stuff. When I was down [in Cardiff], I realised it was benefitting me and it’s the right thing to do. “I love it. I like my own space, so it actually really suits me. I’m not always on my own but it’s good because I’m always focused on the boxing. I suppose you’ve got to be that sort of person, you either love it or you hate it.” In Blackwell’s two previous bids for the Lord Lonsdale strap, he was an eight-fight novice when stopped by world contender Martin Murray before he took Billy Joe Saunders to the wire, only to find himself on the trailing side of a razor thin decision. On both occasions, the former English champion believes he was missing one key ingredient and it’s the reason he’s relocated to Cardiff – Gary Lockett. The 38-year-old former fighter, who once contested WBC and WBO world titles, has established himself as one of Britain’s most thought of trainers and Blackwell has recently enlisted his services on a full time basis. Describing the decision, Blackwell said: “I had to make changes to my training, one of those things was my trainer. Gary Lockett has been there and done it, he’s got the experience, that’s what I need. “This will be the first time I’ve had Gary in my corner, it would’ve been good to have a fight before this but we click really well and everything he’s said to me, I’m 100% confident in it. It’s going to play a massive part in the fight on Saturday.” Over the last two years, Blackwell has regularly spent time with Lockett in the gym while sparring the likes of Commonwealth light-middleweight champion Liam Williams (12-0-1, 7KO) and novice prospect Alex Hughes (4-0, 3KO). The 24-year-old was an admirer of the Welshman’s wisdom and keen to be a beneficiary. Blackwell said: “I’ve been coming down sparring in Gary’s gym [for] a couple of years now. Where I live, there wasn’t a lot of good sparring for me, so I was travelling to Wales twice a week a lot. “Basically, he was pointing a few things out that I wasn’t doing and when I was doing it, it was actually really working. It just clicked with me that I needed to be there. I asked him and Gary told me to speak with my trainer [about moving gyms] and it went from there. “It’s been wicked. I get on really well with all of them and they’re all good lads. When it gets to training though, it’s seriously hard work in the gym. We help each other out; we’re all learning together and competing against each other. It’s really good and we’re all benefitting from each other.” Standing in Blackwell’s way will be John Ryder, a once-beaten southpaw from Islington who has the backing of Eddie Hearn and home advantage. Throughout his twenty fight career, Blackwell has rarely owned any outside-of-the-ring influences and he feels that the situation on Saturday will be nothing new after his steep six-year learning curve. Analysing those advantages, Hennessy Sports’ Blackwell said: “Every big fight I’ve had, it’s been in the away corner and this is no different. Same old stuff. I know I need more than a good performance, I need a massive one. I’ve got to win every round really clear and that’s how I’m going to win this fight. “This is my time on Saturday to put everything together and progress on from there. I’ve learned a lot from all of my fights and I wouldn’t change it either.” Like Blackwell acknowledged, he’s always been the outsider for his notable nights and it has, arguably, cost him valuable victories over Max Bursak and Sergey Khomitsky. Even before he embarked on a professional career, Blackwell’s route was far from conventional. As a teenager, he started off on the unlicensed circuit and while still a boy; the perennial underdog, who had never heard of the Amateur Boxing Association (ABA), was up against fully matured men. Reflecting on his rough introduction, Blackwell said: “That was my apprenticeship, that was me learning what I should’ve as an amateur but I had no amateur background. I’m still learning in the pro ranks, a lot of these lads who have big amateur career come to the pros and they’ve already learned but I haven’t had that. I’ve learnt on the job. “I had 18 unlicensed fights. I didn’t even want to fight when I started, I was just doing it for fitness. I went from there really, I was winning and I am where I am now. Everything’s going alright, I’ve learned from my losses and I’ve got to put it together on Saturday night and use all my experience.” Those experiences require the un-teachable and immeasurable qualities of toughness and heart. Added with Lockett’s technical guidance; Blackwell believes he’s covering all bases to deal with a strong and skilful operator like Ryder. He said: “We’ve been working on stuff that I’ve got in the locker but I haven’t really used before, which he spotted first thing. We’ve worked on the basics, if you work on them then you can’t go wrong. “People think Nick Blackwell is just strong and comes forward, that’s all I’m really renown for and obviously that’s my style but we’ve been adding little bits in, which I think is going to play a massive role in this fight. “[I] expect to meet him head on. John Ryder, people might say he’s technically a better boxer than me but we’ll find out soon enough. If he tries to pus me on my back foot, I’ll push him harder on to his back foot. I don’t want to give my tactics away but it’ll be a good fight. Our styles might make one of the fights of the night.” Should Blackwell become Britain’s best at domestic level, the brawler struggled to articulate just how much it would mean to him. In conclusion, he said: “It would probably be the happiest and best moment of my life. I’ve worked so hard from the age of 16 for this moment, to win something like this. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs, it would mean a lot to me to win this fight… I can’t describe it in words.” Image by Hennessy Sports. Sky Sports Box Office will show ‘Rule Britannia’ exclusively live this Saturday. Buy now at www.skysports.com/brookgavin

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