'The Tank' rolls on to title shot
Clondalkin fighter Tims out to reclaim his Irish crown
Clondalkin fighter Ian Tims contests the vacant Irish cruiserweight title in Belfast tonight on the undercard of Lee Haskins's IBF world bantamweight title defence against Belfast prospect Ryan Burnett.
Tims (13-3, 4 KOs) meets unbeaten Swindon fighter Luke Watkins (10-0, 6 KOs), whose mother Caroline comes from Wexford.
Watkins (27) is a protégé of trainer Paddy Fitzpatrick who's advising his man not to go chasing a knock-out.
"He's one of those men that will break your heart," he said of Tims, also known as 'The Tank', on Sky. "Some men look hard but they're not. Ian looks hard and he is hard."
While it might be a clever bit of pre-fight codology by a canny coach, it's nonetheless true.
Two of Tims's losses came in big international title fights and the other was due to a leg injury picked up in the ring.
As he prepared to travel to Belfast on Thursday morning, Tims was upbeat.
"I've been training with Phil Sutcliffe and he's worked out a good game plan," he said.
"I expect we'll be doing what we've been working on in the gym. I'm looking forward to this fight."
Tims hasn't been studying his opponent. "I haven't watched much of him," he admits. "But he seems like a decent prospect. I'll stick to the game plan. But I can adapt to things in the ring if I have to."
Scratch the surface of Tims's genial mood and you discover that he's still irritated at having been stripped of the belt he won when he beat Michael Sweeney in an all-out war in 2011.
"I should never have been stripped of it for inactivity," he protests. "There wasn't much happening in Irish boxing at the time. Brian Peters wasn't promoting as much. Why weren't other fighters stripped of their titles? The belt is there for me to win back and I'm looking forward to this."
Discerning fight fans believe Tims-Watkins could be the fight of the night tonight.
Could it be another war?
"Yeah, I like a good tear-up," laughs Tims.
"But not too many these days. This lad is ten years younger than me. We have a good plan. But, you know, cruiserweight is like heavyweight. It only takes one shot to finish a fight. I'll keep my hands up and keep pushing forward."
This is an important milestone fight for coach Paddy Fitzpatrick, who spent a few formative years working alongside Freddie Roach.
Luke 'The Duke' Watkins is his protégé. "Duke never had a pair of gloves before he met me," he says of the man he believes is on his way to becoming world champion. "I've trained him from scratch. So that's how you'd judge me."
Ahead of tonight's decider, Tims sparred Cuban exile Mike Perez, who'll be fighting for the first time tonight since his WBC silver heavyweight title loss to Alexander Povetkin in May 2015.
"He's in good shape," says Tims. "It was great to get the rounds in with him in Cork and in Dublin. I've trained well and feel confident. Let's get on with it."