LUKE Watkins is ready to leave the amateurs ranks behind and turn professional with fellow Swindonian and Southern Area champion Lawrence Bennett already in his sights.

Although the 24-year-old knows that he has got to work his way up from the bottom before he can even think about facing Bad Boy, Watkins believes that the time is right for him to make his debut at cruiserweight in September.

The Paddy Fitzpatrick-trained boxer says that he is close to signing a deal with a manager and promoter ready for his autumn bow.

“It just feels right to now turn professional,” Watkins said. “I’m spending so much time training and working with pros I feel that this is the right time for me.

“Paddy working with George (Groves) has helped me a little, but Paddy is starting to getting recognition of his own now, he is not just George Groves’ coach.

“He is getting established and you have to make the most of the opportunities that you have otherwise you could miss the boat.”

Having had 13 fights as an amateur, winning nine and losing four, Watkins spent time sparring with Groves in the lead up to his British super-fight with Carl Froch at the end of May.

But he says that had no bearing on his decision to join the paid ranks now.

“I have always been honest with myself and although sparring with George was good it wasn’t a factor in me deciding to pro.

“Paddy has been good with me, he always said that you have to be in the right state of mind and be mentally prepared.

“We have spoken about whether I’d be a heavyweight or a cruiserweight, and it was a decision that had to be made as you can’t mess around like that as a pro.

“If you are messing around with what weight you are going to be that is when you could suffer a defeat - I’m going to be a cruiserweight.”

With his decision to step into the 200lb division made, Watkins says that he has huge respect for his town rival Bennett as the tricky southpaw claimed the Southern Area title in just his sixth professional bout before winning a British title eliminator in his next outing.

“I have nothing but respect for what Lawrence has done in such a short space of time,” Watkins said.

“I know that I have to start at the bottom and it will be a while before I can even start to think about titles.

“But if the time comes and Lawrence has got a belt that I want then there will be a hometown showdown.”