"When people call it a stepping stone, I class it as a major title!" Liam Dillon not taking Southern area title challenge lightly
Thursday 7th March 2019
Chingford's unbeaten rising super-featherweight prospect Liam Dillon (8-0) doesn't class his Southern area title challenge with Dave Birmingham as just a building block in what he considers his 'toughest test to date.'
Ahead of Goodwin boxing's 'Dare to Dream' card at York Hall, Dillon has done plenty of sparring with a lot of highly-touted amateurs at Hoddesdon among the wealth of experience with the likes of Lightweight area champion Jeff Ofori and his stablemate Matthew Chanda.
It's been a quick transition over to 2019, and just three months into the new year, Dillon has got what he's wanted for a long time and just hours before he steps into the centre at the iconic British venue, the sole focus is the task at hand.
Birmingham is marginally ahead in terms of experience and brings good support from his Portsmouth roots and has previously ended another prospect's chances in Zimbabwe's Lewisham-based hopeful, Anesu Twala, who was 4-0 at the time.
Dillon says the partisan crowd won't affect him at all, blocking out any cheers and roars from the outset and about focusing on the job, listening to the instructions of Steve Kipps, Bob Kipps and Liam Wilson in the corner.
Here's what the 23-year-old had to say ahead of his domestic clash:
- You must be buzzing...the adrenaline, energy and eagerness to get in the ring now. How have preparations been for your Southern Area title challenge and how you feeling ahead of Saturday night?
A: I just want to get in there now. It's been a long, long camp. I've had top quality sparring with the likes of my stable-mate, Matthew Chanda, Jeff Ofori [Southern Area Lightweight champion], super-featherweight prospect called Diamond. I'm not too sure of his surname but he's undefeated also. I've also been down at Hoddesdon ABC, sparring top amateurs so overall, sparring's been quality. Strength and conditioning, track work, I've taken time off work during fight work to fully rest up and focus on making weight and training.
- This shot has been a long time coming for you Liam. Is it just a sense of relief now that you get your chance and kick on for more major titles in the year?
A: "Yeah I mean, I am not looking past Dave Birmingham. I know he is a hungry fighter. People have told me he's bringing a lot of people down from his hometown but that doesn't really mean anything to me when I'm in there, but, it shows he's eager and he's going to come to have a fight, so I'm expecting the hardest fight of my career so far. I've been a pro for nearly two years now. I've had eight fights, fought regularly, always made weight and it feels good to finally be on the big stage. I class it as a major title, do you know what I mean? When people say it a stepping stone. I would never call it a nothing. He's obviously earnt his right to be there. I'm expecting a hard fight and hoping I come home with the title."
- The fact it's a Southern area title, has that shaped your attitude any different or the same mentality knowing there's a job to do?
A: "Definitely. It's the biggest thing I've fought for so far in my career and I'm hoping, after winning that, it will lead onto bigger things. It's the first major title and I've busted my arse in training to make sure I get my hands on it."
- Dave Birmingham has shown he is a game opponent for anyone. Have you seen any frailties in Birmingham's arsenal that you'll be looking to exploit?
A: "I don't want to give too much away but me and my team have watched and studied Birmingham. We see things we can exploit. We know he's going to come to fight. We've pushed ourselves to make sure I'm a fitter, stronger fighter. In my head, it's the toughest fight of my career but I have no doubt with what I've put into training, I'm going to go in there and give it my all and the title will be mine."
- Just talk to me about your break to America. Was it a vacation or did you get to visit some of the gyms and do some sparring?
A: "After my last fight, I think I only had about a week off and found out about the Birmingham fight. I was due to go to America with my girlfriend because she's from over there in Philadelphia. We planned a three-week trip over there to see her family. So, from my last fight on the 17th of November, I stayed in training, I was doing like ten rounds of sparring and then before I left, my coach just said watch your weight and have a little break from boxing because you haven't really had one. While I was in America, I was doing long runs, half marathons and sprint work and stayed away from boxing to give my hands a rest, my joints but since I've been back its been a solid 9-week training camp. I've had good sparring and proper boxing training, basically."
- For those that don't know you too well, having to juggle your commitment to boxing and a day job, how much more has this opportunity motivated you, being within touching distance of the belt?
A: Yeah, it has you know, it's something I wanted since I turned pro. After a few years, I wanted to fight for a Southern area or English. The opportunity has come and I've just taken it. Since I've found out about the fight, I've wanted training camp to start like there. I've come back from America fit. It's been a long camp and I'm hoping to deliver on the night.
- Another major platform for you Liam, Goodwin show at York Hall. I know you aren't looking past Dave Birmingham as any consummate professional would not but what's in the pipeline with the domestic scene, the way boxing is accelerating and top prospects being matched early on, it's a healthy position for yourself. Do you just want to remain active and gain more experience?
A: "Since I turned pro, I haven't called anyone out. Like I said, I've fought regular, made weight, sold tickets and always delivered on the night. I feel if you keep doing that whether it's a defence of the title they line up next or moves on straight away, I just keep active and see what opportunities come and if you get the win, you can move on."
- Looking back at 2018, assessing your performances, what would you say you learnt the most about yourself or was the biggest learning curve with you stepping into title territory?
A: "I had really competitive fights last year. I had four in 2018. The Dean Evans fight was a really close fight and I learnt a lot in that fight. Not to brawl with my opponent. I wanted to stand and have a tear-up you know and it led onto a close fight. We were exchanging a lot but each fight I've learnt and reflected on it. It's all led to this moment from my first pro fight to now, I've learnt to deal with nerves, I've learnt to compose myself, not rush in. I'm sure after this fight I'll learn from it as well."
- Touching on 'Philly', we've got Tevin Farmer defending his IBF title against Jono Carroll coming up. What's your assessment for that fight, and do you see Carroll giving Farmer any trouble or is a matter of difference in levels?
A: Farmer is very skilful and I think he's very underrated. I don't know if there's someone who's defended his title as regular as he has and everyone goes on about Gervonta Davis but he only had one fight in 2018, whereas Farmer defended his belt three times.
His performance against James Tennyson was class. I like Jono Carroll, he's an exciting fighter and good character. I just think Tevin will be too skilful for him."
- Next, the small-hall scene in the U.K. has flourished over the past few years. What's your relationship been like with Steve Goodwin particularly? How happy are you with the set-up you got with promotion, management, sponsorship and your wider support base and how's this all helped in steering you into this position?
A: "Since I've turned pro, I've had such a brilliant team around me. Steve Kipps, Bob Kipps, Ian Wilson, my S&C coach Patrick Gravesandy, my nutritionist Paul O'Neill, my stablemate Matthew Chanda. I mean the whole set-up at Sparta Gym has been brilliant for me. Goodwin said after my last performance, he'd get me a title shot in 2019 and has delivered it in his second show of the year. Ticket sales have gone up. It's really led to this moment."
- Finally, can we expect a more explosive side to you or a case of sticking to the game plan?
A: "I listen to my corner and we've got a game plan of what we said we're going to do. You can't really have a game plan but we're prepared for any situation."
In what shapes up to be another stacked bill from start to finish, Liam's bout will feature on #13 fight of the night, so make sure you get down to York Hall, Bethnal Green nice and early to show your support.
Headlining the show, unbeaten paths collide as Sean Robinson takes on Joshua Ekapovi for the super-weltweight version of the same crown.