Gunnar Jackson is in the shape of his life in readiness to defend his New Zealand Professional Super Middleweight title in Auckland tomorrow night.
The 26-year-old Tauranga boxer will put his belt on the line against the well-performed Adrian Taiaha, in what is expected to be a battle to the last between two supremely tuned athletes.
Jackson, whose parents won plenty on a horse called Go Gunnar when Jackson's mum was pregnant with him so the name stuck when he was born, is confident he can do the business against Taiaha.
"He is a real powerful fighter and has a lot of thunder in his punches, so I will have to watch out for that, and he is really fit," Jackson said.
"I hear he has been training hard for this fight and is the fittest he has ever been but I can match that and will take it to him.
"The way I fight, technique is definitely important because knowing him he will want to stand there and fight toe to toe but with me I box smart, keep busy and keep mobile. I am feeling good and I am in good shape, so I just need to treat this as just another fight and go in there and do the damage.
"Winning big fights is as much mental as well as physical, so you have to be in the right frame of mind and the right shape to take it out. I like to listen to nice, relaxing music before the fight because if I am relaxed then everything will go fine. If I get overly anxious then it doesn't work."
When Jackson defeated the more experienced Kashif Mumtaz in April this year to win the title, it was the first time he had fought over 10 three-minute rounds rather than six. For that reason alone it was his toughest fight but his next bout was the most important of his career.
Jackson went to Perth and came home with the world-ranked PABA (Pacific Asia Boxing Association) Light Heavyweight title after beating the highly regarded David Letizia.
"I rate the PABA win best because it is a grade down from the WBA [World Boxing Association] title and is regarded higher than the New Zealand title. I still have a fair way to go to get looked at for a shot at the world title but it is a good stepping-stone to get to where I want to be.
"But it definitely put me on the map, on the world stage and I hope to have a crack within the year if everything goes to plan. Winning tomorrow night will definitely open doors in Australia for me for a PABA Super Middleweight bout."
Jackson works fulltime as a drainlayer so fits his morning runs and evening training sessions, with coach Chris Walker at the Tauranga Boxing Gym, around his paid job.
His goal is to be able to train fulltime and make his living, and international reputation, from boxing alone.
Walker has coached Jackson for more than 10 years and could not be more proud at how he has developed over those years. "He first turned up straight from school in his school uniform," Walker said. "He has been a late bloomer and it takes a while for the penny to drop with Gunnar but it certainly has now. He knows what is involved and what has to be done and the results are starting to come through.
Walker is well aware of the capabilities of Jackson's opponent Taiaha, who fought on the Australian Contender television show.
"He has had nine fights, for eight wins, all by knockout. He is quite a creditable opponent and has a good style, so it will be a good fight to watch. Styles makes fights and we are looking forward to it.
"I am confident because we have tape of him fighting and have a fair idea what we are in for. If you do your homework you can train accordingly to his strengths and weaknesses, and I make adjustments to Gunnar to hone in on those weaknesses.
"Sometimes they may surprise you and come out with something you don't expect but you always need to have a couple of game plans to work with."
Jackson will fight in the charity challenge in Tauranga on December 8 at the TECT Arena.