This story was published before a member of Jack Flatley’s camp tested positive for Covid-19 forcing the cancellation of his fight with JJ Metcalf.

Ted Cheeseman, Anthony Fowler, Sam Eggington and Scott Fitzgerald. Four names that have lit up the super-welterweight division over the last 18 months by fighting one another and producing modern day British classics. Coming up behind them is the height and power of Hamzah Sheeraz but the best of the domestic scene may be the one who needs to make an impact sooner rather than later.

JJ Metcalf (21-0, 13 KOs), a fellow Liverpudlian like Fowler, fights this Saturday night in the first defence of his Commonwealth title which he won in June 2019 against Jason Welborn. Six months earlier Welborn gave a spirited display against Jarrett Hurd for the American’s WBA and IBF world title at 154lbs before a body shot ended matters in the fourth round. Welborn’s body succumbed to pressure against Metcalf when a ripping 1-2 ended matters in round eight. It must be pointed out, however, that both men were given warnings for low blows two rounds earlier and Metcalf was deducted a point for similar wrongdoings in the round which he eventually won the bout.

The win against Welborn was the biggest of the 32-year-old’s career. One which he places alongside his performance against Aitor Nieto 12 months prior as the two best of his nine-year pro journey. 

“It was the biggest scalp,” Metcalf told Boxing Social of the victory over the underrated Midlander Welborn.

“Probably the biggest scalp name wise [but] there’s a few other opponents I’ve boxed that I haven’t had recognition for. The Spanish fella, Nieto, he was pretty tough, he was fit as well. He’d only lost a few [five at the time to be exact]. He was Spanish champion and only lost in a European [welterweight] title fight. That was a good win as well.”

On Saturday Metcalf, son of Scouse fighting legend Shea Neary, takes on Jack Flatley in what will be the first defence of the vacant Commonwealth strap he won against Welborn. Flatley, who has campaigned at middleweight in the past, and Metcalf have sparred one another previously and the champion knows what he is in for this weekend inside the BT Sport Studio in Stratford.

“I’m expecting a tough fight, a hard fight,” Metcalf predicted. “I’ve known Jack and I’ve sparred him plenty of times as well. I know he’s a tough lad, he’s fit and he’s right up for it, so I’ll have to be on my A game to win.

“I never thought I was ever going to fight Flatley because he was always at middleweight when we sparred but he’s brought his weight down. The fight got offered to me and I hadn’t been out for a while. I was getting messed about a bit for the British title, so I just took the fight just to keep myself active.”

The Lonsdale Belt is something Metcalf has had his eye on since winning an elimination contest [against Damon Jones] three years ago. In fact, his career began fighting on the undercard of a British light-middleweight [as we then knew it] title fight between Brian Rose and Prince Aaron. And while Scott Fitzgerald still holds the title, the British Boxing Board of Control noted in their September 9 circular that, ‘The division will be considered by the Stewards next month’. At time of writing, their October circular will be published soon so a clearer picture of the British title may reveal itself soon while Fitzgerald continues to deal with personal issues outside of the ring.

“It’s a bit annoying,” said Metcalf. “I think I’m long overdue a shot at it but I’m not going to dwell on it. If it doesn’t come, it doesn’t come. I’m hoping for bigger and better things anyway.”

An alternative route may lie with the IBF where Metcalf is ranked number five behind the likes of Tim Tszyu, Jack Culcay and Jarrett Hurd with three-belt champion Jermell Charlo out in front of all the leading lights at 154lbs including the WBO champion Patrick Teixeira.

Should Metcalf’s 22nd victory come on Saturday, 2021 must be the year that tells us how far “Kid Shamrock” can go in the sport.

“I think it’s gone a bit slow,” he said of his own career progress which had been interrupted by a broken right hand that was successfully operated on after the Welborn fight.

“[There has] been loads of ups and downs but [I’m] still managing to keep my record unbeaten and keep the wins going. I’m 32 now, I should have been a lot further on with my career, but things happen for a reason. It’s all going to come at the right time.”

Thirty-two years old he may be but he is a lightly-tested 32 compared to the 35-fight career of 26-year-old Sam Eggington, which Metcalf mentioned, who has thrilled us with war after war in recent years.

“I only recently turned 32 but some of these fellas that aren’t 32 have been in big fights, hard fights, gruelling fights and I haven’t had to be in them yet,” he said. “If you look at the likes of Eggington, he’s only 26 and he’s been in really hard fights. I feel like I’m a young, fresh 32. I still feel 25!”

The next chapter of Metcalf’s career could see him fighting for more international belts, like the WBC trinket he won against Nieto, which in time could lead to a world title eliminator should he come through stiffer tests than Flatley with all due respect. Or he could jump straight in with the quartet mentioned at the beginning of the article and kick off his plans for domestic domination with an all-Liverpool affair against Anthony Fowler.

“Honestly, probably every day,” Metcalf answered when Boxing Social wondered how often he is asked about a fight against Shane McGuigan’s charge. “I see people in the street and they say, ‘When are you fighting Anthony Fowler?’ I’m fighting someone else I’ve been telling them! I think it’s a thing in the city, a few are behind him and a few are behind me as well, but they just want to see it.”

Metcalf’s road to a career-boosting 2021 begins against Flatley this Saturday in Stratford.

Main image: MTK Global.