Predrag Radosevic docks in Liverpool armed with fizzing fists, a fighting heart and the hopes of his entire sport’s mad homeland.
The pride of Podgorica, Montenegro – smallest of the six independent nations that evolved out of the former Yugoslavia (population 625,000) – fronts up to local pride Liam Smith at the city’s Echo Arena with the WBO light-middleweight belt up for grabs.
And rumbling Rado knows that he will be all but deified back in the Balkans if he can spring an upset and join Croat cruiser Mate Parlov and Slovenian welter Jan Zaveck as the only boxing world champions from a region notorious for fighting.
There is plenty to commend the former Montenegro Sportsman of the Year who is known as ‘Pedja’ and sports a number 11 ranking with the WBO.
Formerly a decent soccer player, Radosevic embraced the fight game after his ship worker father returned with the gift of a set of boxing gloves after a trip away.
Inspired by the individual nature of boxing, Predrag ditched the football and embarked on a distinguished amateur career that brought 90 wins against 16 defeats plus the Balkan championship. He might have advanced further had regional wars not excluded participation in the world championships and Olympic Games.
Radosevic was still in his late teens when he vaulted to the pros back in August 2004 and over the ensuing nine years the well conditioned box-fighter racked up 27 straight wins (nine quick). His CV was garnished with the interim WBC Youth title plus IBF and WBC International belts and a world ranking of four with the IBF.
He’ll no doubt have learned lessons from the solitary stain on his 31 fight slate when he caved in to spiteful body shots against Germany’s five-time world champion Felix Sturm during the fourth round of an IBF eliminator up at 160lbs in Dortmund.
That harrowing defeat was almost three years ago and prompted the Montenegrin to dip down a division, where he has remained unbeaten since.
His most notable recent scalp came in May of last year when he trounced dome-headed Italian veteran Giuseppe Lauri – a four time European title challenger – over 12 to bag the WBO European gong and his current world ranking.
Travelling 1100 miles to swap leather with ‘Beefy’ in the Scouser’s yard is unlikely to unnerve him. In addition to the land of his birth, the hard and hungry hopeful has already featured in Croatia, Bosnia, Austria, Serbia, Slovenia and Germany as a pro. Away from the ring he has worked as part of the Montenegro Elite Police Unit for special projects and in VIP protection. Clearly he can handle himself.
At 5ft 10in tall, he lands with a one inch advantage in height and is a naturally bigger man than the defending Liverpudlian, having conducted the majority of his career up at middleweight, even fighting as high as light-heavy.
Now operating at his optimal weight, those with tickets plus BoxNation subscribers can expect to see a supremely conditioned, technically adept operator who is bristling with both pride and ambition. Expect a lively encounter for as long as it lasts.