26.10.05 – Commonwealth and European super bantamweight champion Esham Pickering is unfazed at the prospect of facing British king Michael Hunter in his hometown on Friday night, (October 28th). Whilst the Hennessy Sports promoted 29-year-old faces a partisan crowd at the Borough Hall in Hartlepool, he has proved in the past that surrendering home advantage does not affect his performance. He sees no reason for anything to be different this time around..
“He is going to have a crowd of around 2000 behind him so there is going to be some atmosphere in there, but I won’t even think about that,” said Pickering.
“I will just concentrate on getting the job done. This is make or break for me, everything is on the line.”
Pickering dealt with hostilities in his very last outing when he travelled to Madrid in September to defend his European title against the previously undefeated Miguel Mallon.
“The locals weren’t too bad when I walked out,” he explained. “But as the fight went on they got noisier and noisier. They cheered everything he did, but I wasn’t rattled; I knew I was still boxing within myself.
“Then, after I stopped him (10th round), they started throwing things. A coin hit me in the mouth when one of my team lifted me on their shoulders, then my trainer Brendan Ingle got hit in the head by a bottle of water.
“Things like that don’t bother me though, so long as I win.”
So does the Newark boxer feel that he will be lifted in triumph again on Friday?
“I am expecting a good fight, a tough fight. I have respect for Michael, but I am confident I will deliver the goods – and inside the distance,” he predicted.
“People haven’t seen the best of Michael yet. He is tough and talented and will go all night long, but they haven’t seen the best of me either.”
Given that ‘Brown Sugar’ is highly ranked with both the WBC and IBF at super bantamweight, he could have passed up on this stiff mandatory by relinquishing his European title in order to wait for higher profile contests. That, however, is not what this fighter is all about.
“I could have turned this down and looked to go to straight into an eliminator or even a world title shot,” he admitted. “But that was never an option for me. I am not going to avoid anybody and after all, if I don’t win this fight, what point is there in me going on to compete at a higher level?”
Pickering stepped up to world class in 2000 when he moved down in weight to challenge Mauricio Martinez for the WBO Bantamweight title in just his 19th fight. Despite losing in the opening round, he is able to take positives from the experience.
“Not many come back from a defeat like that,” he continued. “Look at Roy Jones Junior since he got knocked out for the first time. But even though I had never been on the floor before, I picked myself up, got on with my career and have now won British, (since relinquished), Commonwealth and European titles in my correct division.”
Pickering hopes to be making the next step on the traditional title path next year.
“Because of the politics in this sport you never really know what’s going to happen, but I am hoping that I will get a world title shot within the next 12 months,” he explained.
“I am top ten ranked so it should happen sooner or later, even if I have to fight an eliminator first. In the meantime I would like to get in another defence of my Commonwealth as that is the one I have held the longest.”