Sean McComb v Sam Maxwell (SSE Arena, Saturday, live on DAZN)

FAMILIARITY is not breeding contempt for Sean McComb ahead of Saturday’s showdown with Sam Maxwell, but he is certainly wary of the task ahead against his old gym-mate.

Both men previously trained under Danny Vaughan, roomed together, ate together and sparred countless rounds together, so will be only too aware of each other’s strengths.

Maxwell (17-2) is a former British and Commonwealth light-welterweight champion but lost those belts to Dalton Smith in his last outing, stopped in the seventh round which was the second of his defeats in three fights - the other against Alejandro Meneses in an IBO title tilt.

But with 11 of his wins inside the distance, the 35-year-old Londoner carriers power and McComb is only too aware that while his opponent may have been stoped twice, he is also more than capable of closing the show should he be afforded the opportunity.

“I know Sam is a big puncher, very heavy-handed and I’ve experienced that,” said the West Belfast man whose own record stands at 17-1.

“I’m glad I did as I now know how dangerous he will be over the 10 rounds. There have been fights where he may have been trailing or it’s been close, but he’s come through and knocked people out late on.

“For me, it’s about being fully switched on in every round, take one round at a time and focus on what I’m doing in each, taking no chances with a big puncher. The main thing for me is focus.”

McComb has rebuilt his career superbly since his his sole career loss back in 2021 to Gavin Gwynne, rattling off six straight victories and claiming the WBO European title along the way - a title once also held by Maxwell.

A successful defence against Kaisee Benjamin in Birmingham earlier this year in front of the Sky Sports cameras and then last time out against Alejandro Moya at the Falls Park suggest he is in the form of his life.

A win on Saturday in front of a packed arena and huge TV audience will see his stock rise further.

“I just want to keep the ball rolling,” he stressed.

“It’s a great feeling when people recognise that and tell me that I’m flying. I enjoy that as I always knew I was good enough to compete at the top level, so as I’m starting to step up levels, people are seeing the best of me.

“I’m getting the platforms too with Sky Sports and fighting on DAZN for this one is a great way to get an audience to watch you showcase your skill and the work you’ve put in over a lifetime.”

It’s a fight befitting of the occasion this weekend as on a card littered with 50/50 contests, this is one in which a case can be made for either man.

Although they have sparred those rounds together in the past and will have more than an insight into the other, it has been a few years since they last traded leather in the gym.

When they do it for real this week, it will come years after they went their separate ways with McComb teaming up with coach Peter Taylor.

Maxwell has operated at a higher level in his career, but McComb believes can be his breakout moment with victory and under the guidance of Taylor, feels he is a much better fighter than at any time before.

“It’s a great fight and one where I’m looking forward to showcasing what I can do on a big platform,” he insists.

“We both know each other, are ex-teammates and have sparred many rounds together, so it will be a new experience for me going in to fight someone like that.

“He’s fought a great calibre (of opposition) and is a top lad. The spars we had were class - you’d have paid to watch them. He will have taken confidence from them and  so will I, so now it’s a matter of both of us trying to put it into practice.

“But I do fully believe I’m a completely different fighter now than I was two and a half years ago. I’m more mature now and my performances have been more mature, sharp and switched on for whatever task lay ahead. I believe the 12 months have been crucial in my career and have shown I can compete at that level.”