AS Kelvin Young gears up to make the first defence of his IBO inter-continental super-middleweight title, the Penhill pugilist insists that he is better than ever.

Of course, every boxer going into every fight claims to be in the ‘best shape of their life’, but in the case of this 27-year-old it is hard to dispute it.

Why? He has been sparring with a man determined to eradicate all doubt that is he the top 168lb fighter in this country.

Who is he? Carl Froch, and, on May 31 he’s in a minor scuffle in front of 80,000 fans at Wembley Stadium defending his WBA/IBF titles against Swindon-trained George Groves.

The Cobra is focused, better than ever, according to Young, as he heads into the rematch from the controversial November clash.

Yet, as the Nottingham boxer steps up his preparation to silence Saint George once and for all, Young gears up for his own title defence at the Oasis Leisure Centre on June 7.

And while his manager and promoter Keith Mayo is still trying to finalise the finer details for a slated clash with Frenchman Nicolas Dion, Young says he is reaping the benefits of his time with the Cobra.

“Out of the 110 rounds I’ve done with him, (on Tuesday) was best I’ve seen him,” Young said.

“I have been training with him for a few weeks now and I probably had my best spar with him the other day.

“I’m improving all the time, he is bringing the best out of me.”

As well as sparring Froch, Young has also been in the ring with the Great Britain amateurs in Sheffield, spent a day in South Wales with Gary Lockett, a trainer with burgeoning reputation, and is set to head south for a session with middleweight contender Chris Eubank junior.

And if the quality of the sparring is anything to go by, and if you listen to what Young and his trainer Richard Farnan have to say, then Dion is in for a world of trouble next month.

“The better opponent you spar, the stronger you are going to get” Young said. “It improves your defence, improves your speed and your strength - they are hitting you all the time.

“Carl hits me in the arms, my body, my head, he hits you everywhere.

“It was brilliant being with Gary Lockett, he has got a lot of top lads there and it is improving me all the time.

“The lad I sparred was a top amateur, he is very quick and different sort of style.”

Having won his inter-continental strap in December, outpointing Bulgarian Alexey Ribchev, Young already has his ambitions to be the IBO kingpin.

And with South African Thomas Oosthuizen vacating, leaving Colombian Alexander Brand and American Don George to slug it out next weekend in Cartagena, Columbia, the Penhill star knows that his attention must remain on his first defence.

“He (Oosthuizen) has vacated now and there are two other lads fighting for the main belt. Whoever wins that, hopefully I’ll get two defences of my title, and then get a chance for the main belt,” Young said.

“But I can’t look too far into the future, I have to keep winning, starting with June 7.

“He (Dion) is a tough come forward fighter, he will bring the best out of me, if we can get him it would be a good test.”

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