Twenty years ago, a 13-year-old Callum Johnson would mark out the corners of a boxing ring with four jumpers and bound into his makeshift ring pretending to be the legendary Prince Naseem Hamed winning the world title. Even he couldn’t have predicted though that two decades later, he would be fighting for a world title for real.

It has been almost two years since a Scot became world boxing champion. Following Ricky Burns’ victory over Kiryl Relikh in October of 2016, most observers believed it would be Josh Taylor who would be the next fighter to bring a world title to these shores.

But Johnson has something to say about that. Taylor has yet to get within touching distance of a world title fight but next month, Johnson will take on Artur Beterbiev for the IBF World Light Heavyweight title.

With so much of the spotlight focused on Taylor in recent years, Johnson has flown somewhat under the radar. But that all changed in March of this year when he produced an immaculate performance to beat Frank Buglioni to win the British title and put himself in the position of being named mandatory challenger for the world title.

A victory next month will be no easy task for Johnson though. The 33-year-old will take on the Russian on the 6th of October in Chicago with Beterbiev, who is making his first defence of the belt, expected by many observers to retain his title. However, Johnson remains entirely unfazed by the tag of underdog and is confident that given the shape he is in, he can do some real damage to the Russian, who boasts an unbeaten record in his twelve professional fights.

“This is a tough ask and I know I’ll be up against it but I’m confident in my ability,” said the Lincolnshire-based Scot.

“My camp has gone well. There’s still a few weeks to go but this is probably the best shape I’ve ever been in at this stage. My confidence is sky-high and my training is going well and that’s a really good place to be.”

Johnson is no stranger to Beterbiev, although the pair have never shared a ring. They came through the amateur ranks simultaneously, with the Russian becoming world amateur champion in 2009 while one of Johnson’s stand-out amateur achievements was winning gold for Scotland at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

In the pro ranks, Johnson has racked up a 17-0-0 record but only now has he come anywhere close to fighting for the greatest prize of all. And he admits that as soon as there was a mention of this fight, there was no holding him back.

“Quite a few fighters were given the chance to fight Beterbiev and they all turned it down,” reveals Johnson.

“I only had to be asked once though - it took me all of half a second to say yes. This is definitely going to be my hardest fight to date, in the amateurs or pros. I’m under no illusions as to what I’m up against but I think that will work in my favour because I’m under no pressure.

“I’m expecting to go through something I’ve never been through before. But I’m ready and I can’t wait for the opportunity.

“To make it go well, I just need to be the best I can be. I can box very well and I can fight well too. I’m also very strong and very powerful, as is he. But if I can bring the best version of me to the ring, I think that will see me through.”

It was Johnson’s British title victory against Buglioni that really brought him to the forefront of people’s minds. Buglioni went in as favourite but Johnson destroyed the Englishman within a round to take his belt and set himself up for this world title shot.

Were Johnson to return from America as world champion, it would mean everything to him. It is not only what it would do for his career that motivates him though. Johnson dedicated his win earlier this year to his dad, who passed away in 2016, and the admits that he will be in the forefront of his mind were he to upset he odds and defeat Beterbiev in a few weeks time.

“When I was 13, my dad told me that I’d fight for a world title one day although I didn’t even really know what that meant,” he said.

“It all started with my dad so to be able to look up to the sky and say dad, we did it - that, for me, would mean more than anything.

“Winning this world title would blow my career into orbit. If I win this, it’ll be one of the biggest upsets in world boxing and it’d be huge for my career.”