A fortnight after their respective nations lock horns at Twickenham in the Rugby World Cup, southpaw lightweights Tom Stalker and Craig Evans shall renew Anglo-Welsh rucking for the vacant WBO European title.
The former Team GB team mates will swap leather in a potential classic on Frank Warren’s unmissable ‘World War III’ promotion at Manchester Arena on October 10th.
It’s a crossroads collision which will jettison the victor several rungs up the world rankings but leave the vanquished slithering to the bottom of the snake.
‘Tom’s a lovely boy and we’ve always got on well but we’re both in there to do a job,’ says the 25 year old Evans who hails from Blackwood in Gwent.
‘We’ll just have to put our friendship aside for 10 rounds. There’ll be no hard feelings after. But don’t be taken in by that ‘happy-go-lucky’ personality. When Stalker fights, he fights!
‘Obviously Tom was a very good amateur and, as he showed in his last fight, good for four rounds as a pro. But then he dies down a bit. He had the amateur style, picking points, off to a tee but this is a completely different game. Since I started boxing at nine, I’ve always loved the tear-ups. It’s the fight game.’
The former European schoolboy bronze medallist from Tony Borg’s fast rising St Joseph’s gym in Newport is grateful for a chance at immediate redemption after falling fractionally short in a prickly British title challenge to Blackpool’s Scott Cardle last May.
He says: ‘It’s great to go straight back into the firing line because this is a fight I definitely think I can win. It’s time I had a belt as a pro and the WBO European would be great. I can’t wait.
‘Cardle was my first 12 rounder and I simply started too slow. I started to claw it back between rounds six and 11 but then lost the last round. It was very, very close. I’d love to do it again but, hey, you move on. My focus is now on Tom Stalker.’
The 31 year old Scouser boxed at 64 kilos when skippering Team GB at the London Olympics and previously conducted his entire pro career up at light-welter whereas the 5ft 8in Evans started out down at super-feather. Nevertheless, the Welshman doesn’t envisage natural size presenting an insurmountable obstacle.
‘We’ll both be required to weigh in at 9stone nine or less the day before,’ he says.
‘I could still probably weigh-in at 9.4 but it’s much harder to make and I feel a lot stronger up at lightweight. I still put just as much graft in at the gym.
‘And travelling up to the north-west certainly won’t affect me. I’ve only fought in Wales twice as a pro. I’m always in someone else’s back garden.
‘I’ve never treated any fight easy, even when matched with the journeymen but I’ll be as fit and strong as I can get. I won’t be able to do any more.
‘In the past, I’ve done plenty of sparring with Lee Selby and Gary Buckland but, for this fight, we’ve done loads with Gary’s brother Mitch(ell) cos he’s southpaw. We might be working with Terry Flanagan as our fights get closer.’
The trade is evenly split as to who will prevail in this battle of the ages but one safe bet is that we’re in for a cracker.
‘People go on about two southpaws clashing but I actually expect it to be a good fight to watch. Stalker’s last opponent (fellow Scouser Tommy Carus) was also a southpaw and that was a hell of a fight,’ says Evans.
‘We know he’ll try to box and be busy early on but then we expect he’ll tire out. He faded big time against Carus in an eight rounder and this is made for ten. I definitely think I’ve got the beating of him.
‘He’ll want me to come forward so it could be a cagey chess match early on but I’ll just have to start making my push a bit earlier than I did against Cardle.
‘My work rate should be the difference. We know he’ll tire so if I can start faster, win some early rounds and put him under pressure, I might even stop him late on.’