Grimsby boxer Kev Hooper plots path to English lightweight title

Posted: February 7, 2012 in Interviews

BRITAIN’S lightweight division is brimming with talent, from Ricky Burns and Kevin Mitchell to Gavin Rees and Anthony Crolla.

But Grimsby’s Kev Hooper is hardly the type of man to stand by idly and watch others attempt to reach the pinnacle of a division in which he has, already, made an impressive mark.

An unbeaten 10-0 record will be put up to the test when Hooper, 27, heads the bill against Bulgaria’s Yordan Vasilev for the vacant International Masters belt at Grimsby Leisure Centre on February 24.

But while the security guard and doorman is refusing to treat the threat of Vasilev (10-23-2) lightly, he admits to a hunger and desire for more high-profile contests.

“This is a big year for me, so hopefully I can get this title out of the way and move on to even bigger things,” said Hooper, who is trained by Sean Wood in his home town.

“I definitely want to be fighting for the English championship by the end of the year. I don’t care who it is, I will fight whoever is put in front of me. I’ll go for it, although there are a lot of good lads out there.

“I don’t have a particular opponent in mind – I’m ranked number ten in the country by Boxing Monthly and it would be good to mix it with any of the guys ahead of me in that list. It’s likely I will be fighting away from home after this.

“But everything is going well at the moment, the people in Grimsby are looking at my progress now. And Sean is such a great trainer, he is always there for me and shown me so many skills.

“Against Vasilev, I know I’ll be up against an opponent who is game, strong and enjoys a good tear-up. If I need to, I can fight on the inside but I would rather use my advantages – I have a bigger reach and I need to box on the end of my jab, keeping the fight at arm’s length.

“Vasilev is going to pressure me, something I haven’t been involved in yet, as he’s going to want to make it toe to toe. He’s going to come at me.

“But I enjoy the pressure. In my last fight against Jamie Speight I was matched against the right sort of opponent, who was 10-1. I stepped up and it was a cracking win (Hooper won on points over ten rounds).”

But while the illustrious names sitting atop the lightweight division hold  the key to bigger riches and   herald larger crowds, Hooper is still being plagued by a fighter from just over the other side of the Humber.

Hull’s Tommy Coyle claimed the vacant International Masters welterweight  title by out pointing Arek Malek in October but is returning to the lightweight division against Graeme Higginson next month. He has been on Hooper’s radar for a while – especially when Coyle’s trainer, Stevie Smith, said the Grimsby man was “running scared” of his charge.

But a defiant Hooper insisted Coyle does not filter onto his list of current targets.

“He needs me – I don’t need him at the moment,” said Hooper.

“If there is a big title available then I’ll be going for a fight against him. If it’s for the English title, then I would jump at it. But I don’t see him as a threat.

“I see that he has been calling out Curtis Woodhouse, too. I’m good friends with Curtis and I notice that he’ll call him out – but then nothing will happen.”

Bell time at Grimsby Leisure Centre is 7.30pm. Tickets are £40 ringside, £30 general admission.

Card:

Kev Hooper vs Yordan Vasilev
Sammy McSpadden vs Rick Boulter
Joel Haigh vs Kristian Laight
Gary Johnson vs James Oliphant
Matthew Mallin vs Matthew Hardy
Jody Meikle vs Tony Shields

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