Time is running out for Joe Blackbourn to make his mark on the Kiwi boxing scene.
It's sure been slow going. Almost two years after turning pro, his career features just four fights. All he's won inside the distance. But next week's appearance on the undercard of Sky's Super8 tournament - his first pay-per-view event - is the start of make or break territory.
At 28, Blackbourn realises the need to make a statement. He's linked up with Shane Cameron's manager, Ken Reinsfield, to get his career moving in the right direction. And a dominant display over four rounds against former kick boxer Dimitri Simoukov, who pulled off a split decision win over Kiwi middleweight champion Gunnar Jackson in 2012, should put him back on the radar.
Four low-key wins in Wellington - the last in August - haven't created a stir.
"I want to say ‘here I am'. Everyone knows about me I've just got to remind them," Blackbourn said.
With three children to support - Keahan, 9, Reagan, 7, and Aston, six weeks - the super middleweight is desperate to make the most of this opportunity. Juggling work at a Hutt Valley car lot and training has become increasingly difficult, but he's determined to gain some impetus and make up for lost time.
"The next two or three years I want to pump out some fights and get some money. I don't feel 19 any more. It takes a toll on the body and finding the motivation is a lot harder with work and kids.
"I've probably only got a few good years left. I don't really want to go past 31. If I start losing fights it's pretty obvious it's time to give up and move on to other things."
In some ways Blackbourn has been a victim of his successful amateur career which included more than 100 fights, five national titles and an appearance at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.
Reinsfield has been knocked back by several Australian prospects, wary of a fighter with such pedigree.
"He was one of our best amateurs," Reinsfield said.
"He's got a helluva lot of skill but has lacked opportunities. Hopefully that's what I'll bring in for him.
"He's hard to match. A lot of people don't want to fight him because of that skill."
Much of Blackbourn's style is based around his left hook - a favoured tool of his Tongan coach - and fast hands. He also changes the angles well, possesses strong body shots and has solid defence. He'll need all those skills to maintain his unbeaten record in Auckland on Wednesday night. Fairfax NZ
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