Australia’s Joel Brunker can set up a world title tilt when he contests the biggest fight of his boxing career against unbeaten English featherweight Josh Warrington early on Sunday morning (AEST).
The bout will be broadcast live on TV in the UK from Warrington’s home city of Leeds where the 13,000-capacity arena is sold out.
Victory for Brunker (29-1), will put him in the frame for a world title shot against WBC champion Gary Russell Junior or a rematch with IBF belt holder Lee Selby – the only man to beat the 29-year-old.
Selby is widely regarded as the best featherweight to come out of Britain since Naseem Hamed, but he was made to work hard for his ninth-round win over Brunker in London last November.
Despite the loss, the Australian gained plenty of respect for the way he handled Selby, who went on to beat Russia’s Evgeny Gradovich for the world title.
Brunker believes he let himself down against the Welshman and claims he’s in much better shape to beat Warrington, who’s been likened to Ricky Hatton for his all-out attacking style.
“I was out of the ring for 14 months and when I took the fight with Selby I was very unprepared,” Brunker told AAP.
“I gave my best, but it was a rusty performance and far from my best.
“I learnt a lot from the fight and it’ll only help me improve. A win against Warrington puts me in the mix for a second shot against Selby.”
From Western Sydney, Brunker has struggled to find decent opponents and exposure in Australia in recent years and his only fight since Selby was a two-round win over Filipino Ray Laspinas in Sydney seven months ago.
He admits moving to the UK or the US to get bigger fights has crossed his mind.
“Australia doesn’t really get behind boxing, which is disappointing,” he said.
“The headlines are all NRL and cricket, which don’t get me wrong they’re great sports.
“But it’s disheartening when you work your backside off and the massive fight you have coming up doesn’t even rate a mention in the headlines.
“Australian boxing has so much talent, but there just isn’t the financial backing to grow the sport.
“I still work as a bricklayer and unlike most professional athletes I still have to work as well as train full time to support my family.”
Brunker’s front-foot style matches up well against the Yorkshireman who boasts a 21-0 record.
“My best performances were against fighters who come forward and throw a lot,” he said.
“Warrington is the perfect opponent for me to shine.”