BOXER Nav Mansouri says the prospect of becoming Rotherham’s first British champion in 100 years has given him extra motivation going into the biggest fight of his career.
The super-welterweight takes on the dangerous Kieron Conway on August 14 as part of a highly publicised programme of boxing comeback shows at top promoter Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Fight Camp in Brentwood, Essex.
The winner is expected to get a shot at the British belt.
Mansouri was due to have a warm-up bout before taking on Conway until the coronavirus pandemic shut down the sport in March.
Three months on, the 31-year-old has been catapulted straight into the showdown against the up-and-coming Conway, who has won 14 of his 16 pro fights.
Rotherham hasn’t had a British boxing champion since Tommy Gummer won the Middleweight belt in 1920 — a fact not lost on Mansouri.
“That is some piece of history,” he said. “That gives me more fire — I need to make this happen.
“This is a massive opportunity for me and it couldn’t come at a better time considering the way I have been training and preparing.”
Mansouri, with 20-3 win-loss record, returned from his permanent base in Spain before lockdown to push his claims back in Britain after being on the wrong end of a couple of points decisions there.
The pandemic crisis came at the time when his partner was home in her native Lithuania with their child. Missing his family, Mansouri eventually took a three-day trip by ferry and road to see them.
Although that was tough, the fighter used the down time to improve on his already sharp fitness and has continued it at trainer Kevin Lilley’s base in Wickford, Essex.
“The set-up there is bang on. Everything is 100 per cent,” he said. “I have seven weeks until this fight but I have been training constantly, even since before the lockdown. It has been the best thing for me because I could focus on training and nothing else.
“I couldn’t be happier. I have the fire back and that motivation to win — that feeling is back and that can be dangerous in this division.”
Mansouri faces the surreal prospect of fighting behind closed doors at a venue dubbed “Eddie Hearn’s back garden”.
And at this stage in his career, Nav knows it is make or break time for him.
“This is the one,” he added. “I have Kieron Conway standing in my way. He’s a good kid but it will be a mistake to look past me and he could be in for a shock.
“This is my chance and I intend taking it.”