Sheffield boxing fans await European battle and local bragging rights clash

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Ross Burkinshaw has been warned by his manager and trainer that he’ll have to be on the top of his game if he is to become a double champion in Sheffield on Saturday.

The Commonwealth bantamweight ruler takes on Belgium’s Benjamin Smoes at the Octagon, hoping to land the WBO European strap. Smoes, who looks small in stature compared to the Beighton man, has not fought since April last year and has lost three out of his last five outings.

The stage looks set for Burkinshaw to get a second trinket...and he promises to put on a special Steel City night. But at a press conference yesterday he was reminded that boxing can spring surprises.

Promoter Dennis Hobson chairing the conference at the Rutland Hotel, Broomhill, said: “If Ross is not at 100% he is going to struggle.”

Hobson said his scrapper was a “Cinderella man” who had emerged from a chequered record to blossom under trainer Ryan Rhodes.

Rhodes respected Smoes as a tough battler and cautioned ‘The Boss’ that he will be in for a shock if he thinks it’s going to be an easy fight.

Smoes, the same age as his opponent at 28, explained that he had not boxed for 10 months following the birth of his child. Asked whether he considered himself an underdog, he said: “We’ll find out on Saturday.” He added: “If I didn’t think I was going to win, I wouldn’t be here.”

Burkinshaw’s main challenge may not be Smoes - but claiming the headline act at the event. The chief support between city super bantams Uzair Najib and Muheeb Fazeldin could steal the show, according to Hobson. The pair, who dispute the Central Arena title, dislike each other.

Burngreave’s Fazeldin abused his opponent: “I am going to whip your ass. I am going to beat you so bad you will call me Daddy.”

Park Hill’s Najib responded that Fazeldin was an idiot and that he’d “knock him spark clean out.”

Hobson, who manages both fighters, said he could not pick a potential winner between the two: “It’s a genuine 50-50 fight and this fight will give one of these a platform to go on to bigger and better things.”