Chris Bourke challenges for the Southern Area title on Saturday night – as he gets a taste of boxing without any fans at a show.
Promoter Frank Warren has announced a summer schedule of shows and the South London super-bantamweight, 25, faces Ramez Mahmood for the vacant belt at the BT Sport Studio in Stratford.
Bourke’s bout is the chief support to Joe Joyce, who tunes up for an October clash with Greenwich heavyweight Daniel Dubois by taking on Michael Wallisch.
Bourke has raced to 7-0 in the professional ranks but has not fought since February due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Safety regulations mean that this weekend’s event will not take place in front of a crowd.
Warren’s first show back was on July 10 as Brad Foster – the British and Commonwealth champion at Bourke’s weight class – defeated James Beech Jr.
“I watched to see what it would be like,” said Millwall fan Bourke, from Streatham. “It is going to be strange boxing without a crowd but the set-up was good.
“It’s quite similar but it sounds as if you can hear the corners, which will be interesting, and also hear every punch.
“I’ve had about eight weeks in the gym. This fight was scheduled for the 02 [Arena in Greenwich] on the undercard of Joyce-Dubois but then that got cancelled. I didn’t even know if I’d be boxing this year – it was quite a relief to hear that I would be.
“I got a phone call from Martin Bowers, who is my manager and trainer, and I said yes straight away.
“If I don’t fight I don’t earn. With a lot of footballers they are earning big money, but with boxers at the stage that I am at we rely on fighting regularly.
“I’m quite lucky that I’ve got a couple of sponsors who keep me going, so I wasn’t too stressed.
“And I also knew everyone was in the same boat – it wasn’t just me in that position. I took a couple of weeks off to let my body rest and then had a solid training camp.”
Bourke boxed for England at amateur level and feels he has the skills to carve out a clear win over Mahmood (11-0).
“People are saying it is a 50-50 fight but I want to prove I’m a level above the Southern Area,” he said.
“I believe I can get him out of there.
“I haven’t seen too much of him, I don’t know if he has been hit clean before – how he takes it.
“Ramez is a good fighter. He’s won this belt at the weight above and he is coming down to try and win it again. He’s got a very good engine and has done 10 rounds before. But I don’t see him doing anything special. He’s got a high work-rate but is quite basic and one-paced.
“The thing is that even if I have a bit of ring rust it is a 10-rounder – plenty of time to shake it off.
“I don’t see doing the distance as any issue. I’ve done a lot of sparring in this camp with Louie Lynn, who I feel is a better fighter than this boy I’m fighting.
“The Southern Area is definitely a belt I wanted to get, it is one that a lot of good names have won and I want to go on that historic list.
“I want more titles in the future. This fight will push me up the rankings again. I’m pretty sure the British title is going to be vacant – Brad Foster has won it outright now.
“I trust my management and Frank to know when is the right time and we’ll go that way.”
There has been a push for spectators to be allowed back into sporting events from October.
“It’s good to be boxing but I don’t want to be doing it behind closed doors again if I don’t have to,” said Bourke. “Joyce-Dubois are meant to be fighting and I’d love to get on the undercard of that.”
PICTURES BY KEITH GILLARD
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