IN most cases, a fight between two unbeaten prospects would be a topic of hypothetical discussion.
But for unbeaten former kickboxing star and boxing convert Victor Nagbe, a potential fight with former Australian light middleweight titleholder Daniel Lewis in December could be an essential part of his development.
Just one fight into his fledgling punch-for-pay career, Nagbe (1-0) speaks of the Lewis fight with an admirable sense of urgency.
“I really want to fight Daniel Lewis in December, it would be a hell of a fight to take,” he told Aus-Boxing.
“I want all the smoke. Being undefeated doesn’t mean anything to me – it’s not about being undefeated – if Daniel Lewis is the best, I want him. If he beats me, he gets my respect, I’m not here to build a record.
“At this stage of my career, it’s time to face the real people. I was like that in kickboxing in Thailand and I’m going to be like that in boxing. I just want the big names. Daniel is a good fighter and I respect the guy.
“He did a lot in the amateur game and I see this as a game as well, a competition, and I just want his spot. A win over him would be another step on the ladder and I’m going to keep climbing on the ladder.
“A fight with him is inevitable and it makes me hungry. With my approach to boxing, I don’t look at names or records, I just see them as an opportunity.”
The 25-year-old recently moved a portion of his camp to Phuket, Thailand, in an attempt to refresh his training environment. The move is already proving to be hugely beneficial according to the Ballarat resident.
“I came to Thailand to change up my training camp, especially with my mindset,” he explained.
“It was good to change the atmosphere, to get a different atmosphere around me. The atmosphere here is brutal and it’s only been a week; but it’s good to have that environment, a competitive one where I can train with people I know.
“I’m dealing more with science, compared to an old school approach from before. It’s getting better.”
After overcoming a bout of pneumonia, which caused him to withdraw from his scheduled fight in June, Nagbe is ready to hit the ground running.
“I was training really hard for my second fight, but I had a cold, pushed myself and in the end I got pneumonia,” he continued.
“The doctor told me that I couldn’t fight and I was struggling to breathe during training. My heart was skipping beats, it was a pretty bad case of pneumonia. I had a cold and an infection, but I kept training because I knew my opponent would be training.
“To some extent, it’s been good because I like to train hard. But it’s not always about training hard, but training smart.”
In recent months, Nagbe has been patiently sharpening his tools in anticipation for his next opportunity. In that time, Nagbe watched former stablemate Michael Zerafa upset Jeff Horn in a pay-per-view blockbuster last month.
Having worked closely with the former Commonwealth titleholder, Nagbe has drawn motivation from Zerafa’s steady rise.
“Michael and I used to train together, I have so much respect for him,” he concluded.
“When he settles into a fight, he’s very dangerous. Everyone nows that Michael works really hard – and when it looks like he’s not going to get it – he does. I knew going into the fight, that if he settled into it, Jeff was going to have a bad night.
“The result has motivated me. I’ve seen that Michael works really hard and if I do the same, I’ll reach that level as well.
“It was a beautiful fight and gave me that fire to get to the top. It’s not envy, I see it as motivation, seeing my former training partner do it, and now I want to do it too.”
Having signed with respected Perth-based manager Tony Tolj, joining his existing team of trainer Tony Salta and promoter Will Tomlinson, Nagbe sees a promising future ahead, including his looming bout on October 12th in Bairnsdale.
“It took three years in kickboxing to get where I wanted to be, and it will only take me two years in boxing,” he said.
“For me, my will is pretty strong. I’m an Australian and I classify myself as an Australian. But if I can survive in Africa and Thailand, I know that I can survive anywhere.
“The only thing I’ve got to do is trust my trainer, my manager and of course my promoter. The rest is history, we’ve just got to put in the work. It’s an exciting time for Australian boxing, and I will be a part of it.
“I’m not coming to discredit anyone. When I get that smoke, I’ll fight everyone. That includes guys like Tim Tszyu, Ben Mahoney and whoever else is in my way.”
Photos: Ray Rolla