Southpaw Craig Evans has decided it might be time to pick on someone his own size.
The 26 year old - who once stretched formidable two-weight world champion Vasyl Lomachenko the distance in the amateurs - has earned favourable reviews for his valiant British lightweight challenge to Scott Cardle, plus a brace of epic draws with Tom Stalker for the WBO European 135lb strap.
Nevertheless, the former British amateur knows his best chance of collecting the British title he covets is dependent upon enticing the reigning super featherweight champ to meet him between the ropes.
Ahead of his homecoming eight rounder with Seaham’s Jordan Ellison at Cardiff Ice Arena on July 16th, the 5ft 8in fighter from Tony Borg’s thriving Newport camp explained to Glynn Evans why less could prove more.
Some felt you were a shade unfortunate not to be awarded victory after your fine performance in the Stalker rematch. What was your take?
“I probably just lost the first fight when I took things a bit for granted and expected to win comfortably. But I thought I won the rematch by at least three rounds and I now know how to beat him. When I boxed, rather than went to war, Tom had no answers.
“I thought it was very unfair that, after Stalker turned down a decider with me, he was then given a shot at the vacant (WBO European lightweight) belt and now holds a world ranking (WBO 12) as well as the title. But he’s just minding it for me.
Everyone seems to be requesting a third match so let’s do it. If he wants it, he can have it.
Having gone unbeaten in your first 14 pro starts at super-feather, you’re now without a win in three since moving up to 135lbs. In your post-fight interview after the Stalker rematch you implied you might return to 130. Still the case?
“I said that but the problem is nobody worthwhile will fight me at 130. Rivals just turn me down or pull out.
“It’s very frustrating but, with the right notice to get the weight down, I’ll fight anyone they can deliver at 130 pounds. I’m sure I’d win one of the major belts and defend it several times.
Look, I’m comfortable at 135 and I don’t mind giving natural weight to stay busy. Against (British champion) Scott Cardle, I made the mistake of starting too slowly because of the uncertainty with it being my first 12 rounder. I’m competitive at lightweight and there’s probably more ‘big money’ opportunities there.
But if I’m offered worthwhile fights at super-feather, I’ll make the sacrifices. At 130, I’m a big awkward southpaw as opposed to a small lightweight but I’ve a mortgage now and bills to pay so have to take whatever is offered.
Fights with Mitchell Smith or George Jupp – both under the Warren axis – should be easy to make at 130.
There’s plenty of good young fighters at 130 who all bring their own styles and attributes but they’re all beatable. Beating one of them would move me on towards a big title.
I rate Mitchell particularly highly but thought he was very flat and below his best the night George Jupp beat him. I’ll fight anybody.
A straight challenge to British and Commonwealth boss Liam Walsh would be plausible.
Liam Walsh is a world class talent who I really rate but again I’d never turn a fight down. To be viewed the best, you have to beat the best and I’d have the chance to gain two major belts.
Ideally, Liam will get an opening at world level and vacate his British and Commonwealth belts leaving me to have it out with one of the others you’ve mentioned. But I’m 27 in September and still to win a belt as a pro so it’d be silly to turn any title fight down.
Just three of your 17 pro gigs have taken place in Wales and you’ve not fought in the Principality for almost three years. How important will it be to enjoy home court for once?
It’ll be nice to fight at home again. The only problem is half of the boys have been to the Euros in France and are now skint but I’ll push as many tickets as I can.
I’m keen to show Welsh fans what they’ve been missing and my preparation has gone fantastic. I’ve had some brutal spars at our gym with (IBF featherweight boss) Lee Selby plus the Buckland brothers, Mitchell and Gary. You have to be on your game the whole time.
So what can your compatriots expect from you on July 16th?
Ellison’s never been stopped and he’s a gutsy come forward fighter who’ll not come to run away and survive. That’ll suit me.
I never look to force stoppages – if they come, they come – but I’ll be hoping to win every round and deliver a really classy show for the Welsh fans.
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July 13, 2016