SWINDON trainer Paddy Fitzpatrick hopes the stars are aligning for an early summer showdown between Luke Watkins and British cruiserweight champion Matty Askin as the domestic 14 st 4lb division begins to take shape in 2018.

A match-up between Commonwealth champion Watkins and Blackpool’s Askin was close to being finalised for the pair’s next ring outing before the British Boxing Board of Control stepped in to decree that the Lonsdale belt holder would have to defend against Stephen Simmons, a clash that was originally pencilled in for Edinburgh in October before Askin sustained a shoulder injury.

That contest will now take place at Bethnal Green’s York Hall on March 17, a fortnight after Watkins headlines the Trifecta ‘No Retreat, No Surrender’ show at Swindon’s MECA on March 3, with plans to firm up the Watkins-Askin match after that well advanced.

A meeting with the winner of the much-hyped O2 Arena domestic dust-up between Lawrence Okolie and Isaac Chamberlain on February 3 could be another potential option for ‘The Duke’ Watkins, although both the Wiltshire and Askin camps have made clear their preference for the former option.

Fitzpatrick told the Swindon Advertiser: “There are a lot of shifts happening in the cruiserweight division right now.

“We had agreed to fight (British champion) Matty Askin and he had agreed to fight us and in fact both camps are still talking about what can happen after the (Stephen) Simmonds fight, should he be successful on March 17 at York Hall.

“We’d agreed terms and finances with the McGuigans (Cyclone Promotions) but before the paperwork could be finalised the board of control stepped in and said Matty has to face Simmonds, so we missed the boat a little bit.

“We’re both in a similar situation in that both Matty and Duke have missed the chance to unify (the British and Commonwealth titles).

“I’ve spoken to Paul (Speak), who is Matty’s manager, since that fight got made for Simmonds and we’ve both been straight and honest with one another about where we stand.

“Matty wants to fight Duke and Duke wants to fight Matty. He would be open to fighting the winner of Okolie versus Chamberlain but it’s not of as much interest to him.

“A fight with Matty is a unification. As a champion, you want to defend the title but you want to keep moving forward. You get to the stage of world champion then you want to unify and get more belts.

“We’re ready to go with it and it’s something both men want. I think they are the two best cruiserweights in Britain and it would be an excellent fight, that’s my opinion.“History shows that the unifications of the British and Commonwealth titles have been excellent fights. If Matty comes through in March and we can do it in May time then that would be great.’’ Watkins has been in Poland sparring with Krzysztof Głowacki, who knocked out WBO cruiserweight champion Marco Huck in 2015, ahead of his homecoming fight, with his opponent yet to be announced.

“We have two names that we’re trying to secure,’’ added Fitzpatrick. “One has 28 wins, 10 losses and so has a lot of experience and has fought former world champions at cruiserweight and challengers at heavyweight.

“Hopefully that can be determined in the next few days, with a bit of luck.

“Duke is excited because it will be his first time fighting here in a year and he does miss that.

“He is very much a Swindon man and it genuinely buzzes him to be fighting in front of a home crowd.’’