Boxing title challenger Kevin Hooper from Grimsby all set for the big one
TITLE challenger Kevin Hooper says he is faster and fitter than ever before – and ready to rumble Midlands Area lightweight title holder Amir Unsworth in Humberston on Friday night.
The unbeaten Grimsby professional is challenging Sleaford fighter Unsworth in a showdown at the Beachcomber that is also an English title eliminator.
Hooper, who has 12 wins from as many fights, is on the verge of making more history for Grimsby boxing as he bids to be crowned the region's first Area title winner in seven years.
But Unsworth has a point to prove after losing his last two fights, which included an English title first-round knockout defeat to Derry Mathews.
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Textbook displays of technical boxing have steered Hooper, coached by Grimsby's Sean Wood, to British and International Masters title victories in the last 12 months.
As a result he is expecting 31-year-old Unsworth – whose record is 13 wins, five defeats and one draw – to rough things up in the ring on Friday.
"This is the Area title, the big one," said Hooper. "It will mean a lot and it's the big win I need to keep moving forward and climbing the ladder.
"I'm taking on the champion, I'm the challenger. A win will put me in line for the English title and big things to come. It's a big year for me.
"It's going to be a tough fight. I'll be back boxing off the back-foot – my speed will be key to this.
"He keeps saying he's going to knock me out and give me my first loss, but it's not going to happen.
"He's strong on the inside so he'll come forward.
"But I'll box and move, make him miss and make him pay."
Tomorrow, the boxers – who are both managed by Carl Greaves – will tip the scales in the weigh-in – 1pm at Millenium Health & Leisure, in Cromwell Road, Grimsby.
Hooper's training regime, which has seen him shift around a stone-and-a-half, has involved pounding the sand with sprints on Cleethorpes beach, late-night runs on the promenade, intensive work in the gym, and sparring sessions with former British champion Anthony Crolla as well as English light-welterweight title winner and ex-Grimsby Town footballer Curtis Woodhouse.
"I've been out training a lot more and I'm feeling fitter and sharper than I ever have before," said Hooper, who works as a security guard.
"I've got my weight down quickly rather than it being a bit more last-minute."
Unsworth is looking to banish memories of his last appearance at the Beachcomber, last October, when he suffered a surprise defeat to Atherton journeyman William Warbuton on points.
"He hasn't boxed since that defeat and that could be in the back of his mind," said Hooper.
"It's a great following I've got here in Grimsby and I'm looking forward to the fight."