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Kash flow looks healthy

PUBLISHED: 17:52 19 January 2011

Akaash Bhatia

Akaash Bhatia

Gavin Ellis/TGSPHOTO c/o 27 Plaiters Way, Braintree, Essex, CM7 3LR - Editorial Use ONLY - FA Premier League and Football League

AKAASH Bhatia believes he will be back on course for a British title challenge if he overcomes former champion Carl Johannesson this weekend.

Bhatia has been out of the ring for almost exactly a year, partly due to a dispute with promoter Frank Maloney, but makes his return to action on Saturday in an eight-round clash with Johannesson in Doncaster.

And the 27-year-old from Wembley is confident that victory will propel him into the frame to challenge the likes of English super-featherweight champion Anthony Crolla during the coming months.

Bhatia has stepped up a division after spending the bulk of his career at featherweight, where he suffered his only defeat in 16 professional fights against Jamie Arthur in a British title eliminator 18 months ago.

“Looking back, I had nothing left against Arthur – I was chronically dehydrated and something had to change,” Bhatia admitted.

“I’m happy to an extent that I went through that, because now I’m listening to my body more and I feel stronger. The first thing Jimmy Tibbs said to me when I started training with him was that I needed to move up a weight and that’s been crucial.

“Jimmy’s an awesome trainer, he tells you how it is and I really appreciate his honesty. Now I’ve been presented with this opportunity, hopefully I can show people what I’m all about.

“This should put me back in contention and within six months I can be fighting for the British title. I’m really looking forward to it – I’ve been preparing for a while and I’m very confident.

“Johanneson’s a dangerous opponent and he looked good in his last fight [a points win over Arek Malek], but if I’m on my A-game I should be able to beat him.”

Yorkshireman Johannesson, 32, held the British super-featherweight crown until two years ago, when he lost it to Kevin Mitchell – now a stablemate of Bhatia’s under the watchful gaze of Tibbs at the TKO gym in east London.

Bhatia has been sparring with Mitchell in recent months, but admits he has found it hard to maintain focus after two scheduled contests on Maloney shows failed to materialise.

“It’s really depressing, when you’ve had six weeks of training three times a day, to get a phone call on the morning of the fight telling you it’s off,” said Bhatia, whose last outing was a points victory against Mickey Coveney in January 2010.

“I’ve had a few mishaps, but it’s never been a case of me not wanting to fight. It’s been difficult to keep motivated and stay in the gym when everyone around you has fights coming up and you don’t.

“So I wasn’t too happy with Frank then, but I’m delighted this chance has come my way. I think if you look at everyone’s career, they’ve had a little lull and hopefully mine has passed.”

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