LUKE Watkins will not feature on this weekend’s Fight Town III card, with coach Paddy Fitzpatrick keen to avoid unnecessary injury ahead of a confirmed British cruiserweight title eliminator bout against Mikael Lawal in January.

Watkins was due to face the inconsistent Erik Nazaryan – a former UBO Inter Continental challenger – on Mark Neilson’s Saturday card at the Oasis Leisure Centre.

But the Swindon talent has understandably pulled out of the contest amid his quest to land the currently vacant British title belt.

A date is yet to be confirmed for Watkins’ upcoming January fight. But Fitzpatrick told the Adver it’s possible his bout with Lawal will be aired on terrestrial television.

And the prospect of watching the 30-year-old face Lawal at full fitness excites Fitzpatrick, who claimed his star cruiserweight has suffered from several niggly injuries in five of his last six bouts.

“Against Ian Tims, Robin Dupre, Mike Stafford and Isaac Chamberlain, Duke (Luke Watkins) had an injury,” said Fitzpatrick.

“Some knocks were significant, others were smaller – but he was never 100 per cent.

“If he had more time, he could’ve been 100 per cent for those fights. But sometimes you’ve got to go with the flow when there are certain fights available.

“What I didn’t want to do was see Duke pick up an injury this weekend, and that injury take three to four weeks to sort out. We’ll use our time wisely and prepare him accordingly for January.”

Like all fighters in the cruiserweight division, Watkins’ doors have opened significantly following Lawrence Okolie’s decision to vacate his British title honour.

Next month, Richard Riakporhe will fight Jack Massey for that vacant honour at London’s York Hall.

Belfast-based Tommy McCarthy will also be keen to make a mark following his split decision win in Italy against Fabio Turchi – who was unbeaten in 17 fights before this month.

Chris Billam-Smith – current Commonwealth champion – is another fighter that will want to make the most of Okolie’s absence.

Watkins’ fight against Lawal will be no easy task. Afterall, the London prospect boasts a 12-fight unbeaten record – seven of those wins happening by knockout.

Fitzpatrick said: “Duke is used to championship fights now, he’s been involved in several of them. It will be Mikael’s first time at this level, but that’s no negative on his part.

“They can both punch - but tell me one fighter that can’t at that weight?

“Regardless if you think a fighter is a puncher or not, you can’t take any man for granted at that weight.

“Mikael is capable. It’s a good fight, an interesting fight – one that excites Duke.”