Tyrone McKenna v Lewis Crocker (SSE Arena, Saturday, live on DAZN)
A LOCAL derby can bring added pressure, but Lewis Crocker insists he is “cool, calm and collected” ahead of Saturday’s ‘Battle of Belfast’ against Tyrone McKenna.

The Sandy Row native is stepping up into his biggest test to date in a career that has already seen him build a record of 17-0, but views this as the night in which he can kick down the door to bigger opportunities.

Of course, local pride is also at stake and Crocker is insisting he will silence his West Belfast rival on the night.

Despite just being 26 years of age, Crocker has been a pro for six and a half years. His career got off to a whirlwind start with six knockout wins from as many fights before being taken the distance for the first time by William Warburton at Windsor Park in August 2018.

Still, he continued to rack up the wins, claiming the WBO European title along the way, but things began to slow and after a write-off of a year in 2022, teaming up with trainer Billy Nelson in Glasgow this year has helped breathe new life into his career.

Three fairly routine wins including a stoppage of Greyvin Mendoza at the Falls Park in August shed any rust, so now it’s time for the acid test against McKenna who has mixed it at the top level and undoubtedly represents the toughest test of his career to date.

“I train hard in every camp, so nothing has changed apart from being more motivated and up-for-it earlier on,” said Crocker.

“Usually, I’d have the fire in my belly two weeks prior, but I’ve had this nine or ten weeks out, so I’m buzzing for it.

“I understand this is the opportunity and it’s all I’ve ever needed. I’ve now got it, against Tyrone, in Belfast at the SSE and live on DAZN.

“There’s no pressure. I guarantee he is a lot more nervous about this fight than I am. I’m cool, calm and collected about it, just looking  forward to getting in and putting on a show.

“As far as I was aware, I was getting the IBO title shot and then McKenna got it. The plan was then always for either McKenna or the Italian (Nicholas Esposito) but then that fight fell through, so I knew this was going to happen and I couldn’t be happier with how things have panned out.”

McKenna and Nicholas Esposito were due to fight for the vacant IBO title at the RDS in September with Crocker in line for the winner, but that didn’t take place after the Boxing Union of Ireland pulled the plug on the entire show.

Of course, the hope was McKenna would come through, but either way, they fight between the pair was made and belt or no belt, it is one that has set pulses racing.

Crocker may be happier to keep a low profile in terms of promotion, but he insists his cross-town rival should not mistake that for nerves and he expects a lively fight week that will fuel his desire for victory even further.

“When it was announced, everyone around the city, my family and friends, have been talking about it,” he acknowledged.

“I’m really looking forward to putting on a big performance and getting the job done. I know he is talking a load of s**t, which is great, so I can’t wait to shut him up.

“What is the point of s**t-talking? We’re going to have to fight regardless and the hero I’m going to look when I smash him...

“I’d expect he’ll come with a promo video, the usual, but I hope he doesn’t think I’m just some quiet kid. I think he has the wrong view of me, so I can’t wait to see him on fight week.

“When I’m standing across that ring from him, he’ll know he has his work cut out for him.”

Some observers have this fight down as a meeting between a power puncher in Crocker against a tough warrior in McKenna, but both men have plenty of skill.

However, the chances of this fight turning into a chess match are minimal and should it turn into a battle in the pocket, this is a scenario Crocker is relishing.

“I can box, but if I don’t need to, I won’t,” he stressed.

“When it comes to the fight and depending on the opponent, if I can get someone out of there then why not take it?

“This is the perfect fight to showcase my skills and show everything I have in the locker that a lot of people haven’t seen yet.

“I’m dying for a war. He always talks about it but if he really means it or not is another question.”