Nathan Heaney will make the first defense of his British middleweight title against English champion, Brad Pauls, in Birmingham on March 16th. The fight will be part of Queensberry’s ‘The Magnificent Seven Ride Again’ card.

Last November, Heaney shocked world title challenger Denzel Bentley to win the famous Lonsdale belt. Having achieved one dream, his others - a stadium fight at Stoke City’s Bet365 Stadium and a world title shot - suddenly don’t seem so far away.

With so much on the line for Heaney, the big punching Pauls (18-1, 10 KO’s) believes he has been hand-picked as a safe job and is determined to make Heaney and his team pay for their mistake.

Whether ‘The Newquay Bomb’ genuinely believes that or whether he is using the idea as a tool to help motivate himself is of no concern to Heaney. He sees Pauls as a legitimate challenger and is treating him with respect. 

“Brad certainly isn’t seen as an easy touch,” Heaney (18-0, 6 KO’s) said at last week’s press conference. “Brad is seen as an English champion. When you look through the division and see who has got the titles, I’ve got the British title and then Brad’s the English champion. In my eyes, that's a worthy fight. It’s not an easy picking at all.

"That motivation will be there for everyone, particularly when you’re fighting for a big title like this one. He said he’s probably a bit better than people think and I agree. He’s got a good jab, I think defensively he’s better than you’d assume he is. He’s got good movement. It sets up for a good fight. I’ve got attributes myself, but it is how we nullify each other.”

Choosing a heavy-handed opponent might just be a very smart decision. When a fighter has accomplished the goal they have spent their whole life working towards, there is always the danger of the next fight being a case of after the Lord Mayor’s show but if the threat of a big puncher wasn’t enough to focus Heaney, at 34 years old he is experienced enough to know what works and what has got him this far and he isn’t about to change his attitude now.

“I still think I’ve got a lot to prove,” he said. “People might perceive that I didn’t perform that good and that Bentley performed bad. But did I make him perform bad? Who knows. For me, I always want to prove myself to be a good fighter. I’ll take that chip [on his shoulder] away each fight but I keep winning and I’ve beaten some very good lads. Hopefully I’ll continue that going forward.”

Should he get past Pauls, demand will continue to rise for a long talked about fight at Stoke City’s home stadium. Whereas some fighters need the right opponent and the right title to justify a stadium fight, Heaney is in a unique position. Of course, being able to build the event around a name opponent would help move a few more tickets and draw even more attention to the show but Stoke has been starved of top level boxing and the opportunity to get behind a fighter who sits alongside them in the stands and sings himself to ring to the tune of the club’s ‘Delilah’ anthem all but guarantees a big crowd regardless of who is on the opposite side of the poster. One name does appeal to him for a summer showdown, however. One Chris Eubank Jnr.

“Anyone at Stoke to be honest. I just want to fight at home,” he said. “To fight at Stoke City is a dream. Chris Eubank Jnr would be a great dance partner to do that to make sure it’d be a fantastic event. Anyone though. A British title defense, a fight at Stoke City and then with everything that’s going on in Saudi Arabia or Las Vegas, wherever in the world this can take me, that’s where I wanna go.”