BY his own admission he is a slow starter, but Jack Cullen is on an upward curve to success.

The middleweight, who boasts a perfect professional record heading into tonight’s contest at the Macron, has an unusual way of psyching himself up for combat – take a punch to the face.

“I’d say I’m a slow starter,” said Cullen, who faces Dan Blackwell tonight. “I need a punch in the head to get me going. It’s probably not the best thing to do but it works.”

You are unlikely to find such tactics in any respected coaching manual but ‘Little Lever’s Meat Cleaver’ is not doing too badly off the back of it. He has notched up four wins from his four professional bouts and has prepared for three months for tonight’s clash. His Bath-born opponent has seven wins from 69 contests and, though his pro record does not match up to Cullen’s, the home-town hero is not taking victory as a given.

“I’m not going into it over-confident,” said the 23-year-old. “I’ve only just turned pro so I’ve got lots of learning curves and if I can keep learning and keep doing what I’ve been told hopefully I can keep winning.

“I know this lad likes a fight so that’s what I’m expecting.

“I reckon it will be a good fight. He’s obviously going to want it, but I know I’ll want it more, so I’m going to win.

“In the short-term I want to get this match done, win it and do two or three more six-rounders and move up to eight rounds. I want to be fighting for a regional title and move up the ladder. I’m not going in desperate to knock my opponent out, we’ve got a game plan and we’ll stick to that, hopefully it will be enough. In the last four fights all I’ve had to do is use my jab. The last one all I did was jab and that won me the fight.

“Opponents can do what they want, if they try to stay away that’s okay because I have a long reach and if they want to come inside that suits me too.”

At Castle Hill Boxing Club, coach Tommy Battel and core trainer Ian Harrison have been putting Cullen through his paces and the coaches feel the best is yet to come from Cullen, who is still developing.

Battel senses a big future for his protege, providing he can stay injury-free, something he did not manage during some trying times in the amateur ranks.

“Jack was kind of a ‘nearly-man’ of the amateurs, which can be a quagmire of bad decisions and bad luck,” he said.

“It’s something that happens to so many lads whose styles maybe just don’t suit the

amateur code. It’s mind-

boggling at times.

“He fought all the top talents and beat them, but didn’t get the decision a lot of the time, for whatever reason.

“Jack turning pro was just the next step in the journey he has to make. We have been on it together for a long time now, many years.

“His boxing and his physicality and mental strength are improving all the time and he has matured, he’s been absolutely spot on. He has everything in place, we’ve kind of trodden this path together, with me being ill (Battel successfully fought cancer in recent years) and him having a really bad accident when he fell off some scaffolding.

“Not seeing Jack recuperate from that made me shed tears. He broke ribs, punctured his lung and fractured his skull. He had pins in his wrist and kneecap but he was in the gym trying to train, trying to spar with pins in his wrist! I had to have a quiet word with him then.”

Such a gung-ho approach to personal safety – and generating devastating power in his punches – is part of the reason Wanderers fan Cullen is now one of the most talked-about young middleweights around.

A surprise 50th birthday party for his mum meant he had to pull out of his last match, which means he has had a 12-week training camp in the build-up to his Macron date.

But, backed by Battel and Harrison, a key member since joining the team six months ago, he is in it for the long haul – and eventually wants to hear Little Lever’s fanatical fight fans backing him in Las Vegas.

“By the end of this year I want to be fighting people who’ve got good records, who are already halfway up the ladder,” he declared. “I want to be getting on the undercards at big nights at the Arena, places like that.

“It’s mad the name Little

Lever Meat Cleaver has stuck with me, Tommy first

mentioned it on Facebook, someone picked up on it and it’s stuck ever since.

“Hopefully, it will be with me further down the line when I get to fight on a bill in Vegas.”