When Patrick Nielsen steps into the ring Saturday at the MusikTeatret in his hometown Albertslund, a short drive from Copenhagen, the added pressure of performing in front of his adoring fans isn't something that unduly bothers him.
"It means a lot to me to fight in my hometown." Nielsen told RingTV.com. "To look out and see all my family and friends cheering me on gives me confidence and a real boost."
The heavily tattooed southpaw meets American Tony Jeter for the vacant WBC silver middleweight title.
“I’ve trained harder and more disciplined than ever before. Especially the sparring has been tougher than ever. There’s a major belt at stake and I want my hands on it.” said Nielsen, (22-0, 10 knockouts).
Following on from Mikkel Kessler will be tough, it's something his promoter Kalle Sauerland knows all to well but is very optimistic that Nielsen can carve his own niche in the sport.
“He has huge shoes to fill in terms of the legacy of Mikkel Kessler.” Sauerland said. “He started off being a hard-hitting fighter who got involved too much but under Joey Gamache, he has improved his jab, which reminds me of Mikkel, also his footwork. Mikkel was unique but Patrick is also. 2014 will see him challenge for a version of the world title.
The fighter agrees confidently, predicting “There’s still some way, but I look at it in this way. I’m young and I feel nothing can stop me from becoming the best.”
The 22-year-old Dane is well positioned with the WBO (No. 3), IBF (No. 4) and WBA (No. 5), and a win Saturday would also see him crack the top 15 of the WBC.
Here's what else I learned during a conversation with Nielsen.
Anson Wainwright – You meet Tony Jeter this Saturday, what are your thoughts on that fight?
Patrick Nielsen – I’ve trained harder and more disciplined than ever before. Especially the sparring has been tougher than ever. There’s a major belt at stake and I want my hands on it.
AW – In your last fight you impressively stopped Mexico's Jose Pinzon in five rounds, you were boxing well and then ended the fight suddenly. Would you share your thoughts on that fight?
PN – Pinzon was a very tough guy. He hit hard and kept coming forward but I knew if I stuck to the game plan I made with my trainer Joey Gamache, I would get him out of there. I am happy with the result.
AW – The Pinzon fight took place in Albertslund at the MusikTeatret, there was a great atmosphere, there was an attempt to break the record for indoor noise at a sporting event, only just missing out? Are you going to attempt it again at this fight?
PN – Maybe it’s possible but either way I’m sure Tony will get a shock when he comes to my backyard and hears the crowd.
AW – What does it mean to you to appear in front of your home fans?
PN – It means a lot to me to fight in my hometown. To look out and see all my family and friends cheering me on gives me confidence and a real boost.
AW – You train with former world champion Joey Gamache, what is the chemistry between the two of you like? How has he helped improve you?
PN – The chemistry is great. I would say he is one of the lads. He is really fun to work with. You never get sick of him. But make no mistake: Joey is tough and knowing what he did in his career gives me a lot of respect.
AW – How far do you feel you are from fighting the top middleweights in the world?
PN – There’s still some way, but I look at it in this way: I’m young and I feel nothing can stop me from becoming the best. I don’t measure myself against anyone.
AW – You're looking to follow in the considerable footsteps of Mikkel Kessler, one of the best Danish fighter of all time. Can you tell us about having him to look up to and about how well the two of you know each other?
PN – I don’t talk that much with Mikkel, but he was an idol no doubt about that. But for me it was always all about Mike Tyson. He was the best ever, the king of boxing. He is my true inspiration.
AW – Tell us about yourself as a person away from boxing?
PN – I have a little dog that I treat like if it was my kid. And I have a true passion for cars.
AW – A couple of years ago you appeared on Dancing with Stars in Denmark, this was something that really helped your career. Everyone in Denmark knows you because of that, could you tell us about that experience?
PN – I did it to test myself. To do something else than boxing for a little while. To cross some boundaries. I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t think it would help me. But I was always a boxer and that’s what most people know me for.
AW – What are your targets for 2014? Also what are your goals to achieve in boxing?
PN – My target is to be the best in the world. When? It’s hard to predict, but I’m not that far away.
Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow him at www.twitter.com/AnsonWainwright