BY RICHARD CAWLEY
First it was Britain, now it is Europe – and next it could be the world for Bermondsey’s exciting prospect Ted Cheeseman.
The 23-year-old super-welterweight won the domestic belt in October with a unanimous decision over Asinia Byfield.
And now Cheeseman, who has racked up 15 straight victories, headlines a show for the first time when he faces European champion Sergio Garcia at Greenwich’s O2 Arena tomorrow night.
Matchroom Boxing boss Eddie Hearn has already talked about building up the next generation of UK stars, with the likes of Tony Bellew retiring, while Amir Khan and Kell Brook do not have years left in the sport.
And Cheeseman reckons topping the bill this weekend is a sign of things to come.
“This is the first of many,” he said. “It shows my progression.
“A lot of the fighters who have been at the top are on their way out – you need a lot of new faces to come through and take over.
“Matchroom have done loads of publicity and promotion to help push my profile out there – my following is getting bigger and bigger.”
Cheeseman donned a superhero outfit – complete with gold cape – for one of the Matchroom’s social media videos.
The pitch was that the super- welterweight division needed a saviour.
“All publicity is good publicity,” said Cheeseman. “Some people might not like it, but others will be able to see the funny side of it. It shows that not everything needs to be serious.
“You’ve got to entertain. You need the public to not like you and the public to like you. You have got to have both to sell you as a product. That’s what we are – a product. If you can’t sell yourself then you haven’t got a chance of earning a big amount of money.
“As much as it’s a sport, it’s a job as well. You’ve got to be earning to get a living out of it as well.”
Hearn has already admitted in the build up that he might not have risked Cheeseman facing Garcia at this stage of his career.
The Spaniard has a perfect 28-0 fight ledger but has not travelled outside his home country.
“What Eddie says is probably true but if you want to go places you’ve got to take risks,” said Cheeseman. “If you are going to be good enough, then you are going to be good enough.
“It is better than fighting bums and nobodies. Look at this fella, he is 28-0 and if I go and do a job on him then he has wasted his time so far.
“He’ll have been building himself up to get to that level but then gets beaten in his first real test.
“I’m hoping to get an early night. He looks like he can get hit and is fragile, but you never know until you are in there with them.”
Don’t expect Cheeseman to put the brakes on any time soon.
The South Londoner, whose idols growing up were Ricky Hatton and Floyd Mayweather, admits the ideal follow up to Garcia would be facing WBO world champion Jaime Mungaia.
The Mexican has 26 knockouts in a 32-0 record.
“I know I’ve got Garcia to deal with but I’d like to push into a big fight in America straight after,” said Cheeseman.
“Mungaia would be a perfect one. He is 22 and I’m 23. We are both unbeaten and he is with DAZN [a streaming giant who Hearn has linked up with to put on shows in the US], so it is one that can easily be made.”
Cheeseman is an excellent trainer – even going to the gym on Christmas day – but had his last proper session on Wednesday. Fight week is always a case of tapering exertions down.
“This part of the build up is nice because when you have been training so hard for a long time there is a little period now where you can freshen up. That’s what helps you to peak on the night.
“This week is all about making the weight [limit]. As an elite fighter that is never easy – being big at the weight is all part of the advantage.
“I’d like to stay at super-welter for a while. You’ve got to dominate a division and win world titles before you can start thinking about moving up, because then you have got to start all over again.
“The only reason to change is if you can’t make the weight or you had a big chance for a world title at another weight.”
PICTURES BY MARK ROBINSON/MATCHROOM SPORT