NAVIGATING Luke Watkins’ career path is proving a real balancing act for trainer Paddy Fitzpatrick as he tries to steer the Commonwealth cruiserweight champion towards the sport’s bigger prizes.

‘The Duke’ will return to the ring at Swindon’s MECA on Match 3, headlining a Trifecta promotion in what is likely to be something of a ‘stepping stone’ fight as he closes in on a unification clash with British champion Matty Askin in the summer.

A competitive 14st 4lb division means there are a number of routes the Wiltshire fighter could take, with Lawrence Okolie and Isaac Chamberlain - who meet in an O2 Arena battle two weeks after Watkins’ own outing - also making strides in the weight category.

Belfast-based Tommy McCarthy has also been previously mooted as a possible Watkins opponent but no suitable deal has been able to be struck between the two camps, with the Swindon 27-year-old now turning his attention elsewhere.

Watkins stopped Southport’s Mike Stafford at the Leicester Arena on December 2 in his last outing and Ferndale Road-based trainer Fitzpatrick says the task of securing quality opposition while keeping in mind future big match-ups is a fine line to tread.

“I noticed this last year too, but in boxing when it comes to the new year everybody is kind of scrambling for the same dates because there is no boxing over Christmas and not usually much in January,’’ he said.

“When you’re looking for opponents for February or March, there are a few shows.

“You look for guys who you would want as worthy tests but they can be in demand because it’s not like there is a whole ocean of them out there.

“You want him to be in real fights at this stage of his career. He (Watkins) is Commonwealth champion, but you have to be realistic in that the bigger fights are one fight away. You’ve kind of got to make the right move at the right time.’’ Watkins and McCarthy were being lined up for a British title eliminator contest at one stages but Fitzpatrick said it wasn’t possible to make the match.

“The board put Tommy McCarthy against Luke in a final eliminator for the British but made its decision just before Christmas, so trying to contact anybody over that period was like trying to find chicken’s teeth. It wasn’t happening,’’ he added.

“I finally contacted Tommy’s management on January 2 and said if they were willing to make us an offer that reflects the fact Duke would be putting his Commonwealth title on the line in that eliminator then we would take that fight, but if an offer wasn’t made that we thought was suitable, then we wouldn’t be going to purse bids.

“They didn’t make an offer, which was fine – they are a big organisation and are excellent at what they do.

“They’ll still find openings for Tommy but it wasn’t going to be with us because we worked too hard to get into the position where Duke became Commonwealth champion to have his next purse be determined by a purse bid.’’