Tony Bellew upped the stakes in his pre-fight chat when he said: "I'm willing to die in that ring."
Bellew is one step away from a challenge for the WBC light-heavyweight world title held by the American Chad Dawson and he is aiming to rubber-stamp his position as mandatory challenger by beating Malawi's Isaac Chilemba in an elimination bout at Liverpool's Echo Arena tomorrow.
Bellew, 30, from Liverpool, is never one to shy away from pre-fight animosity, and this week he relished the chance to stoke up the tension. "I'm deadly serious when I say you've seen me fight with gashes above my face, you've seen me get knocked down head-first in fights, you've seen every possible scenario, with broken hands, ribs, nose smashed and I've fought through them all," Bellew said.
"You've seen that. I've been through them all. What's the next step? The only next step is I'm willing to die. And I know he's not, because no one else is.
"They don't see things like I do, through my eyes. They don't prepare like I prepare, for 12 hard weeks. Listen, I have to do a four-week training camp just to get ready for the next eight weeks because of what I put myself through. There's nothing he can do to me in that ring, nowhere he can take me, that I haven't already been through in camp. He doesn't understand. I'm not joking around, I'm not p***ing about – I'm willing to die when I go in that ring.
"I'll do whatever it takes. However hard it gets, whatever pace he wants to set, I'll take it and I'll take it up again. It's what I do. It comes naturally."
The winner of tomorrow's fight can expect to meet the winner of Dawson's bout with Adonis Stevenson.
Bellew, with a pro career record of 19 wins from 20 fights, 12 by knock out, said that Dawson's name has been banned in the gym, because he faces a considerable hurdle in Chilemba.
"Dawson's a great fighter and the best light-heavyweight in the world, hands down. He's spanked Bernard Hopkins, he's pasted Glen Johnson twice, beaten Antonio Tarver twice.
"I'll just wait and see. I've got to get through Chilemba," Bellew said. "He's the only one on my mind and once we do that, I'll start talking about the other fella."