BRADLEY Saunders is confident nothing can stop him from making the transformation from world amateur to world champion.
The exciting local-lad-made-good always looked destined for championship honours from very early in his professional career.
And the Sedgefield light-welterweight, a former world amateur bronze medallist and Olympian, can now almost touch a world title challenge.
Victory for Saunders over Finland’s Pille Piispanen at the Metro Radio Arena tomorrow night will not only secure him the vacant WBO Inter-continental title it will raise him into the higher echelons of the World Boxing Organisation.
And the 28-year-old knows exactly what that would signify.
“If I win this I get a world rating with the WBO,” the Spanish-based ace told SportMail.
“I do believe I can be the world champion and I will fight anyone out there.
“I know I’ve mentioned great some fighters and I want to be in with these sort of people.
“I’m strong and experienced and I feel in my prime.
“It would be class to be fighting for the world title – that’s what I’m in boxing for.
“And I’m not in this sport to be second best – I want to be number one and over the next few years I’ll be having a proper go at it.
”But first I need to beat Piispanen.”
Not surprisingly, Piispanen will represent the most difficult hurdle of his career to date.
The 30-year-old has lost only four times in 25 contests and has gone the distance in his last two title challenges, both away from home.
He was outpointed by Lenny Daws in Kent for the EU belt in October 2012 and, likewise, he lost out over 12 rounds to Michele Di Rocco in Milan for the European crown last December.
Piispanen is a former EU title holder and he is a veteran of the big fights – six of his last 12 bouts have been over the championship distance.
In total, he has done 53 title-fight rounds – Saunders has boxed only 38 in his entire career.
But the former Gus Robinson Developments boxer is not concerned about either Piispanen’s wealth of experience or his own lack of ring minutes.
“I’m fighting a tough, durable man, who has won titles and fought for quite a few,” said Saunders.
“He dropped the European champion in his last fight but one and has just had a warm-up bout to get ready to fight me.
“He’s up for it, that’s for sure.
“But anyone coming to take me on knows they are in for a fight.
“I am hard to hit and when I hit, I hit very hard.
“I have no worries about doing the rounds, in fact I’ve been looking forward to it.
“If boxers think pulling me into the later rounds is going to be to their benefit, they are in for the shock of their lives.
“I won’t flag and he will find I will get better the longer it goes.”
Saunders wowed the North-East crowd last time out at the Newcastle venue – demolishing Mitch Prince in four one-sided rounds.
An epic ticket seller – thanks to his talent and helped by the energy and drive of mum Tracey – he is looking forward to entertaining not just his own growing legion but the entire boxing public.
“I’ve boxed all over the world, but fighting here at home in the North-East is the greatest feeling,” he said.
“I can’t wait for tomorrow and I can’t wait to get the chance to bring a world title here.”