Fielding of dreams
For a while now there’s been an air of inevitability that Rocky Fielding (20-0, 11 KOs) and Callum Smith (16-0, 12 KOs) will soon face one another in the ring.
The prize for such a fight could range from the vacant British super-middleweight crown to a version of the world title depending on where the chips may fall over the next 12 months at 168lbs at home and abroad. In the meantime, both Scouse contenders have pressing business to deal with in the shape of Bryan Vera and Christophe Rebrasse, respectively, this Friday night at Liverpool’s Echo Arena.
If Fielding, his trainer Oliver Harrison and promoter Eddie Hearn are all happy after Friday’s WBC International contest then something big could come Rocky’s way in the autumn. “It’s just seeing how Friday goes,” the former Prizefighter winner told Boxing Monthly. “If Oliver is happy with the performance, if he sees things that look to be world class in the ring - which we’ve been working on in the gym - then we can sit back down and discuss options.
“James DeGale has been mentioned, I want the fight. I could maybe try and get one fight beforehand against a southpaw (like DeGale) and then go in against DeGale. Eddie was saying he's looking to get me called up for an IBF final eliminator. DeGale’s mentioned me and there’s a few in the IBF rankings, where I’m ranked, who can come over and then down the list there I am [ranked sixth].
“I wouldn’t want to go back down to a 10-rounder after Vera. I think I’d be established then [with a win]. My apprenticeship would be over,” continued Fielding. “I wouldn’t be a prospect. I just want to get this fight out of the way. He’s beat some world class fighters and been beaten by some world class fighters. If I can beat him impressively then I’ll be looking to stay around that mark as a world class fighter. The IBF route is the one we’re concentrating on.”
Fielding, who has been in camp the gym since January's trip to South Africa with gym-mate Martin Murray, knows exactly what to expect from his American opponent on Friday. Vera, 33, might not be a bag of tricks, but his relentless all-action style made him a hard night's work for many a contender when he campaigned at middleweight.
Andy Lee, Sergio Mora, Serhiy Dzinziruk all came unstuck against the Texan between 2011 and 2013 while Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, particularly in their first bout in September 2013, almost became Vera's biggest scalp to date losing out on a controversial 10-round points decision. That night, Vera came in over the 168lb limit and would lose the rematch to the Mexican six months later. His most recent fight saw him drop another 10-rounds points decision to the slippery Willie Monroe Jr back in January.
"You get what you see with him, he’s just there coming at you and throwing all kinds of shots," said Fielding of his opponent. "As the years have gone by, he’s been in some big fights and took some big shots in them. It could be a good, interesting fight and it will probably bring the best out of me. It’s a fight I’ve looked for, I’ve got the butterflies. Everything’s going well, the weight’s good and I’m fully focused on Vera. It’s going to see where I’m at. Get a good performance in, a good stoppage that’ll be even better.
"We’re going in preparing for a tough 12-round fight,” he continued. “There have been a few press releases saying that I’ll knock him out. It was put across that way, but what I said was he’s been in with some good lads who haven’t stopped him and, if I stopped him, it’d be a bit of a statement. I’m not going in there to try and knock him out and stop him. I never say that. It’s just a good statement if I do. He hasn’t been stopped for a while, I don’t think [Writer’s note: Vera was last stopped against James Kirkland back in 2008, unless you count an August loss to Gabriel Rosado under BKB rules] and he’s stopped a few good fighters like Andy Lee. It’s going to be a good fight and I’m up for it. I’ve got my head on it so hopefully it brings out the best of me and it’ll have people talking about me again."
The Liverpudlian has been wondering, however, what Vera's power will be like at super-middleweight. "I don’t think he had much power at middleweight so I don’t know what his power will be like coming up," he told BM. "I’m coming down (in weight) with what I walk around at. There might be a difference in the power. I know he’ll be there and take a few but it’s how many he can take. It’ll be interesting to see."
While Fielding is not anticipating an early night, should one present itself with a victory then it will give him the opportunity to take in the night's other notable super-middleweight attraction - Smith vs Rebrasse.
A win for 'Mundo' will edge him ever closer to that coveted WBC world title shot where he will likely await the winner between Badou Jack (champion) and George Groves (challenger) scheduled to take place in August or September. Fielding expects Smith to pass the Rebrasse test, but not without some testing moments.
"There’s things we’ll see (from Smith) that we haven’t seen before. Rebrasse, after fighting Groves, is tough and game,” said Fielding. “Groves caught him with some good shots and he caught Groves with some good shots. It’ll be interesting and a good fight to watch. I’ve got him down as coming through it with a good performance.
"We’ll see how he is when he’s in some tough times because Rebrasse will put it on him and give him some rough moments and it’ll be good to see how he reacts to it. There’s big things down the line for both of us."
The British Boxing Board of Control's recent circular had the two rising stars slated to contest the vacant Lonsdale belt at 168lbs on 26 September – should both parties agree to the fight. BM asked Fielding if there was ever any possibility of them fighting on the proposed date.
"Eddie said you can have this fight if you’re interested. Callum said he was and I said I was. We have to get these fights out the way first,” explained Fielding. “It was something that we were not saying no to. It just depends how these fights go. He’s in a position now where if he wins he’s looking at Groves. My position is I could be in a final eliminator or straight in with DeGale, there’s been talks for that.
"Me and Callum’s always been there. It’s a big fight now and it’ll happen someway down the line. We’ve got more time on our sides. I wanted Paul [Smith] though he’s had them [title] shots, but me and Callum are on the same level. He’s on a different route, but I think it’ll cross one day and it will happen. We'll stick with what we’re doing now and build up for a big fight in the future."