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LEWIS CROCKER: “IF YOU COULD GET OUT OF WORK EARLY, WOULDN’T YOU?!”

Slammin’ Sandy Row slaughterman Lewis Crocker intends to extend the explosive start to his professional career at the SSE Arena in his home city on Saturday evening.

Thus far, the 21-year-old has blitzed all four welterweight adversaries early, with only Bulgaria’s seasoned Radaslav Mitev making it through the opening session.

‘To date, I’ve only fought five rounds as a pro but I really enjoy knocking people out,’ quips the mild-mannered ‘Croc’ whose bite is certainly bigger than his bark.

‘At this stage, I don’t think the early knockouts are inhibiting my development. I’ve had plenty of rounds of sparring in the gym. The objective is to win and the kayos are a big bonus.  If you could get out of work early, wouldn’t you?!

‘If you’d told me a year ago that I’d have had four wins, and four stoppages plus all the publicity I’ve generated, I’d certainly not have complained.

‘It’s in my head to fight for the big titles eventually but I leave all that to my management. Right now, I’m so happy, really enjoying my boxing. Life’s great. I just want to keep improving in camp; building up my stamina, getting physically stronger, faster, more tactically aware. Gradually, I want to get more rounds, be involved in longer, harder fights.’

Lethal Lewis entered the paid brotherhood under the standard of Hall of Fame promoter Frank Warren 13 months back, following stellar amateur innings that brought 90 victories in 97 starts, seven All-Ireland junior titles and a European Schoolboys bronze medal.

And the young Ulsterman claims he learnt to punch before he learnt the alphabet.

‘My earliest memory of boxing was watching Rocky IV when I was just four years old and then training frantically afterwards. My sister Alanna, who’s 11 years older, was a boxer (two-time Commonwealth Games rep)so it was always around me,’ recalls the lean and lithe 5ft 11in Crocker who is managed by MTK and coached by ex-pro Ray Ginley.

‘Names like Wayne McCullough were bandied around when I was a kid and, at school, I’d spend a lot of time watching Frampton fights on the computer. Carl was a real inspiration to me. 

‘I’d always tell the careers people that when I left school I was going to be a boxer. Nothing else remotely interested me. I’ve been travelling around the world with the boxing since I went over to Russia with an Irish squad when I was only 13.’

Born and raised in the infamous Sandy Row district of south Belfast, ‘The Croc’ was no stranger to violence and conflict throughout his formative years. Boxing, he acknowledges, proved instrumental in helping him to integrate.

‘Sandy Row got a lot of bad publicity during ‘The Troubles’ and there were certainly ‘higher class’ suburbs in the city but for me it was ‘dead on’. It really made me appreciate what I had and it toughened me up. If I’d been raised elsewhere, I doubted I’d have the balls that I do!’ he claims.

‘Though I initially boxed for a protestant club (Cairn Lodge), I went to a cross community school attended by both Catholics and Protestants, then moved to the Holy Trinity club in the heart of the nationalist community. Nobody there cared what your religion was. The coaches Harry and Mickey Hawkins treated me so well, did so much for me.’

The once conflicting communities will come together in harmony this weekend to pay homage to the city’s favourite fighting son as Carl ‘The Jackal’ Frampton bumps beaks with seven-time world champion Nonito Donaire for the interim WBO Featherweight strap.

Before the inevitable pyrotechnics begin, expect crunch puncher Crocker to detonate a few fireworks of his own in a six-round undercard slot.

‘I’m buzzing for Saturday. This is the longest and best camp I’ve ever enjoyed,’ says left hooker Lewis who once iced a Spanish teenager in just 13 seconds including the full ten count!

‘The people of Belfast love their fighting. I recall watching a few of ‘Big Rogie’s’ (ex Commonwealth heavyweight champion Martin Rogan) fights at the Odyssey Arena and I was in The Ulster Hall the night Martin Lindsey won the British title. There was some atmosphere.’ 

‘They’ll be respectful to Nonito – a great fighter – but they’ll really get behind Carl.  One day I intend to headline there myself. That’s the dream. Stepping stones. 

‘It’s great to be a small part of the occasion and I’m desperate to put on another explosive performance for them. Hopefully, it’ll be five wins, five KO’s.’ 

Lewis Crocker v Scott James is part of a huge night of boxing at the SSE Arena in Belfast topped by the WBO Interim Featherweight World Title clash between two-weight Word Champion Carl Frampton MBE and four-weight World Champion Nonito Donaire.

WBO Bantamweight Champion of the World Zolani Tete also features as he makes the second defence of his title against former three-time World Champion Omar Andres Narvaez after his Word recording-breaking KO win at the SSE Arena in November.

WBO European Champion Conrad Cummings and Irish champion Luke Keeler go toe to toe in what promises to be an all-action Middleweight affair while Tyrone McKenna and Light-Welterweight rival Anthony Upton clash in an exciting all-Belfast match-up.

Undefeated prospects David Oliver Joyce, Steven Ward, Tyrone McCullagh, Sam Maxwell, Troy Williamson, Ryan Hatton and Alex Dickinson complete an unmissable card.

A very limited number of tickets for Frampton v Donaire are available to purchase from the SSE Arena Belfast Box Office, www.ssearenabelfast.com and 0044(0)28 9073 9074. Prices range from £40 (tier) to £400 (inner-ring hospitality).

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