Sweet opportunity for Steve "Lights Out" Lovett in Sugarland

Steve Lovett will leave for the United States to continue his professional boxing career later this month. Photo at right: Geoff Jones

Steve Lovett will leave for the United States to continue his professional boxing career later this month. Photo at right: Geoff Jones

Cowra boxer Steve Lovett is moving out of his boss' garage and into the American gym of legendary trainer Ronnie Shields as he attempts a "make-or-break" shot at a world title.

Undefeated as a professional, but frustrated by the lack of opportunity in Australia, 28-year-old Lovett will gamble everything he has by moving to Sugarland, Texas at the end of July to work with the Hall of Fame trainer who has guided heavyweight champions Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield.

Lovett has just finished his apprenticeship as a stonemason and has been sleeping on a borrowed bed in the garage of his boss to save money.

The austere existence has enabled him to travel to Sydney's Grange Old School gym every week, training alongside world champion Danny Geale.

While Geale has previously predicted Lovett would "definitely be cracking for world titles" in the light-heavyweight division, Lovett has only been able to secure seven fights in three years. It has forced him to take matters into his own hands and move to America.

"Boxing in Australia, it's not the strongest sport here, over there it is strong," Lovett said.

"Going over there, I'll be able to get more fights and that's the only way to get better and to climb the rankings. I thought it was the best option for me to go all-out and give it everything I've got. If I go over there I either make it or I don't.

"This is it for me. I've dedicated my whole life to it since I was 13. It's a dream of mine to go over there. It's make or break, but this is what I've got to do. I've got another 10 years left in me, but I've got to do it now if I'm ever going to do it."

Lovett said he was star-struck when he met Shields in Miami last month, after the 2003 World Boxing Hall of Fame trainer of the year invited him to his Plex gym, in Sugar Land, Texas.

"Ronnie Shields is pretty confident he could make something of me over there," Lovett said.

"From that first meeting I knew that's where I wanted to go. He's one of the best coaches in the world, it's going to be a privilege to work with him. He's going to try and get me in the ring as often as possible, being in the States, they have fights there all the time.

"I want to be a world champion and now I've got these guys behind me in the States, I've got more direction of how I can get there - I'll be in the right sport to make it happen. I'm coming all the way from Australia to the States, he knows I'm serious."

Shields said Lovett could "become one of the best fighters in the world".

"I know he's a very hard worker and that's the mark of a great fighter," Shields said.