Callum Smith and Rocky fielding face off on Saturday night in what's the first of a number of mouthwatering match-ups involving British fighters over the coming months. The two unbeaten Liverpool natives meet for the British super-middleweight title, which was recently vacated by Smith's big brother Paul.
If Smith is victorious then he'll become the first fighter in history to succeed a sibling in holding the British title and would become the fourth Smith brother to become British champion. The slightly more experienced Fielding will be looking to break the Smith family's hold on the title and seems very confident in his ability to do so.
Despite there being no bad blood between the former amateur gym-mates, both are promising to win the fight clearly, with Fielding the slightly more vociferous in stating his opinion that he'll knock out Smith. The respectful and mature behaviour of the fighters in the build up is a welcome change when it comes to a big domestic showdown and is in stark contrast to the behaviour of their trainers, who've been trading barbed remarks for the past couple of weeks and have basically made a bit of a show of themselves.
Joe Gallagher, Smith's trainer, has been calling Fielding by his birth name of Michael instead of his ring moniker of Rocky because "he doesn't deserve to share that name with Rocky Marciano", which is more than a touch childish and will gain no psychological advantage that any sane person can think of.
That was then followed up with remarks about Fielding being mentally weak and him suggesting Oliver Harrison has had to work on Fielding's mental state more than anything else, which rankled Harrison enough for him to launch into a scathing personal attack on Gallagher - "I just don't like the way he talks," Harrison told Sky Sports when asked if there were any issues with Gallagher.
"He talks so much crap. It's the worst garbage I've ever heard from a boxing trainer. Why can't he be like Brian Hughes or Brendan Ingle, who laugh and joke? He's always knocking people down. When you talk about that guy, there's nothing good about him. I knew Joe when he was nothing and he'd come and talk to you. He was humble, but now it's like he's Don King and he can't shut his mouth. He's an absolute joker."
Whether there's some history between the pair that not many people know of, who knows, but it's sad to see two respected trainers behave like they're in a school playground. It's certainly a personal problem between the pair because the fight doesn't need hyping up and they've pretty much sold out the Echo arena in Liverpool, which will be bouncing come the first bell.
Fielding, 21-0 (12KO), has been a pro for five years and has slowly built up momentum. He might not have stood out as a top prospect in his first few fights but after producing three knockout performances to win a Prizefighter tournament and following it up with a stoppage victory over another local rival in Carl Dilks, people started to take more notice of the quickly improving youngster.
His progression continued and he picked up the Commonwealth title just over a couple of years ago by taking out the badly over-matched Mohammed Akrong inside a round. His first defence was supposed to be a much sterner test against Luke Blackledge, however, the fight was over inside a round yet again as a sledgehammer of a left hook flattened Blackledge.
Another four victories have followed, including a two round destruction of the usually solid chinned Brian Vera in his last bout. The way Fielding seemed to hurt Vera every time he landed a clean shot speaks volumes about how hard he hits, seemingly much harder than his 57% KO ratio suggests.
Smith, 17-0 (12KO), turned pro a couple of years after Fielding but has made faster progress, quickly despatching most of his early foes before stepping in against the fringe world ranked Nikola Sjekola just two years into his career, winning widely on points. He had another comfortable points win last time out against Christopher Rebrasse, which is arguably the best result of his career.
Fielding has suggested that Smith isn't a puncher because he failed to stop Sjekola and Rebrasse, which isn't really a valid argument considering neither of them have ever been stopped and both are known for their durability. If Fielding feels he can perhaps walk through Smith's shots to land his own haymakers then he might be in for a surprise, there should be no doubting Smith's punch power. He isn't a Julian Jackson freak of nature type puncher but looks like he hits hard enough to be able to gain the respect of all the top fighters at 168.
There are similarities between the two protagonists - both are undefeated, carry power and are still untested in terms of taking big shots. The big differences between the two, and what could be the telling factors on Saturday night, are the jab and technical organisation. Fielding's jab is decent enough, it does, however, lack the authority of Smith's, which is a jolting ramrod that is hurtful as well as the perfect set-up for his straight right and hurtful body shots. Smith also holds a significant reach advantage and has an edge in hand speed, which will make it even tougher for Fielding to contend with.
In terms of technical organisation, Smith seems to have the more textbook and economical style. His guard is nice and tight, he throws punches correctly - he'll never throw a wild or wide punch, he doesn't waste punches, he doesn't waste energy and he judges distance very well - he's essentially a boxing metronome. He can be a touch stiff and upright, although he seems suited to that style in a similar way to what Richie Woodhall was.
Whilst Fielding starts as the underdog, he can't be ruled out from pulling off the victory, he's a good fighter and carries serious power, especially with the left hook. Smith's chin hasn't been severely tested yet, there's no obvious weakness there but the question will always remain until he takes a couple of heavy whacks.
It's hard to envisage Fielding out-boxing Smith, who seems to have a slender edge in most departments apart from punch power. Smith will look to control the fight from distance with his jab and slowly break Fielding down with shots to head and body. Barring a sensational punch from Fielding, Smith should be able to take the fight via a late stoppage or a hard fought but clear points decision.