In the biggest test of his boxing career, Dean Sutherland has vowed to win the battle of the undefeated welterweights to secure Celtic title glory.
Boasting an unblemished record of six wins from six fights, the 20-year-old will face Keane McMahon for the vacant Boxing Union of Ireland Celtic title at the Hilton Treetops tonight.
Dubliner McMahon has an identical record to the Aberdonian and someone’s winning record will end in the eight-round clash.
Sutherland reckons he has already landed the first blow in a war of words and is confident of ending the feud by silencing McMahon and taking the belt.
McMahon claimed he was going to “bully” and “hurt” Aberdonian Sutherland on his home patch.
Sutherland refuses to get drawn into mind games and distracted from his training camp.
He simply posted: “The lion doesn’t turn around when the small dog barks” on social media, then returned to training.
There was no response from McMahon or his camp.
Sutherland said: “McMahon has been bragging that he is going to come over to Aberdeen and do this to me and that is just adding fuel to my fire.
“He is six and zero like myself but the opposition he has been in against is nowhere near as good as I have fought.
“The opponents he has been up against I would class as punch bags as they have been poor quality.
“As he has those six wins McMahon is bragging. But as soon as he gets into the ring with me and I hit him with one or two clean shots, especially to the body, he is going to get a shock.
“I will see the confidence sinking right out of him.
“He can talk as much as he wants, but as soon as he gets in the ring it will just be me and him, and no one can help him.
“Then it is for the loudmouths to prove themselves.
“When I saw his comments I put up that one-sentence reply on social media.
“There was no reply. That was enough to shut him up.”
Following a first-round stoppage of Jan Salamacha in Dublin – his third consecutive knock-out win – McMahon said of Sutherland: “I am going to be towering over this fella, I am going to bully him and I am going to hurt him.”
Sutherland said: “While McMahon has been shouting his mouth off I have been sticking to my game plan.
“I have never been one for slagging off my opponent, I will do all my talking in the ring.
“He is trying to get me emotionally involved, but I am focused solely on getting that belt.”
A former multiple world champion kickboxer, Sutherland will bid for his first belt since switching to boxing in early 2018.
In preparation he has been embedded in an intensive training camp that recently included sparring sessions in Belfast.
While in Northern Ireland, he sparred with double Commonwealth Games bronze medallist and 2016 Olympian Steven Donnelly, and undefeated welterweight Lewis Crocker (7-0).
His willingness to continually face tough opponents and push himself, despite switching disciplines, has elevated Sutherland up the ranks to 10th in Britain.
In his fourth fight the Aberdonian faced Vinny Atkins, who had won his previous two fights by stoppage and was ranked considerably higher.
Taking such a fight so early in a career could’ve been viewed as a gamble. But it’s a gamble only if there is a risk and Sutherland and his camp were confident of victory.
He won by first-round stoppage after only 55 seconds.
Sutherland said: “This title shot may have come quicker than I anticipated, but in every single fight I have taken a step up.
“Even if it was a journeyman I faced, each one was a stepping stone and then I really jumped up in class in my fourth fight (Atkins).
“Not a lot of people would be willing to do that, especially facing someone ranked much higher than them and coming off the back of two knockout victories.
“I am starting to get more respect from others as I have not taken that slow journey by battling through journeymen.
“My last fight (59-56 defeat of Ryan Toms) was a big step up as he was a two-time Southern Area champion at super-welterweight.
“He had knockout power and confidence in himself.”
During his time in kickboxing, Sutherland was completely dominant, winning multiple world titles at multiple weights.
At the height of his powers he turned to boxing – but still has that world champion mentality.
For Sutherland, having that mindset is a driving factor propelling him towards reaching similar levels he did in kickboxing.
He said: “I still have the mentality that I am still right up there at the top just like I was with my kickboxing.
“I still feel I have that hunger and the quality and in my heart I am still right up there at the tip of the game.
“It is like when I was in kickboxing and opponents were coming to try to challenge for one of my titles. That is the mentality I have in my head, that every single fight is basically a title defence.
“No training camp is easier than another, it is 100% every time for me.
“When I have fought guys higher up in the rankings than me I feel I am at that level, if not beyond it.
“It is just a case of proving it to everyone.”
Sutherland will fight on a strong bill where undefeated Aberdeen-based Billy Stuart will contest for the BUI Celtic super-bantamweight title.
“To have my first professional title fight in Aberdeen against someone who is up for the fight will make more fireworks,” said Sutherland.