Boxer John McCallum has labelled Saturday’s British super-middleweight title eliminator with former professional footballer Leon McKenzie as his “world-title fight”.
Victory in this weekend’s ten-rounder at London’s York Hall would leave the Edinburgh fighter on the brink of his first British title since making his pro-debut in 2010 aged 22.
However, McCallum, now 27, would be the first to admit his career hasn’t entirely panned out the way he had envisaged having been limited to just seven bouts in five years —a figure he puts down to the mismanagement of former promoters.
Nevertheless, having signed a three-year contract with Goodwin Promotions in 2013, McCallum now intends to show the British boxing public he has the credentials to become a true champion of the sport.
“This is my world-title fight, make no two ways about it,” he said. “I’m not gonna let an opportunity like this one slip away. If I get a fight with Callum Smith or Rocky Fielding (who are fighting next month for the vacant British super-middleweight title) after beating Leon then that will change my life as well, both sporting and financially. I’ve wasted a lot of money in boxing so far, I’ve always paid my own medicals every year but I believe in my ability when no-one else has so this is make or break.
“I’ve trained harder for this fight than I have done for any amateur or professional fight. I packed in my job at the end of August so I’ve trained for the last six weeks full-time. I’ve taken on a strength and conditioning coach as well as a physio.”
Topping the bill in Saturday’s ‘We Never Stop’ show, McCallum’s duel with the former Norwich and Crystal Palace striker, 37, has caused a right stir in recent weeks after the pair became embroiled in an online slagging match. A one-to-one video has also gone viral after the live interview was cut midway through in an attempt to restrain McKenzie, who has suffered mental health issues, from attacking his opponent.
McCallum has since received death threats from enraged fans south of the border, a situation that he admits has now completely spiralled out of control.
“I went down there with the right attitude for all the pre-fight stuff thinking this guy has been a professional footballer, let’s build it up a wee bit for the fight and then shake hands and may the best man win,” McCallum explained. “But I was standing talking to a journalist beforehand and Leon came in and nudged me on the shoulder like a little school bully. So that automatically got my back up if I’m being honest.
“We were then sitting arguing and I just got under his skin. I never knew his sister also had problems with depression. But from what I’ve seen or heard of him, he seems to be play the violin a lot. He feels sorry for himself and thinks he’s had a hard time. ‘Oh I did six months in jail’ and he goes on about things like that all the time and it’s just become pretty boring. They’ve been saying I’ve been slagging everyone with depression but that’s totally been taken out of context.”
“I’ve now had death threats on Twitter. I know He’s playing the good guy but he isn’t a nice person. I wouldn’t say I was an angel either but I’m not the bad guy they are painting me out to be.”
Amidst all the controversy that has threatened to overshadow what promises to be a good tussle, McCallum insists he must retain a calm head.
“It’s a British-title eliminator but I never imagined the interest the fight would generate,” he said. “I have a job to do. I’m not going to allow my emotions to get the better of me and will just let my boxing do the talking.”