Hall in "perfect shape" as he stands on the cusp of glory

The Northern Echo: READY TO RUMBLE: Stuart Hall and Vusi Malinga will fight for the IBF World Bantamweight title in Leeds tonight READY TO RUMBLE: Stuart Hall and Vusi Malinga will fight for the IBF World Bantamweight title in Leeds tonight

STUART HALL insists he could not be in any better shape for tonight's IBF World Bantamweight showdown with Vusi Malinga, and has predicted he will return to the North-East as Darlington's first world champion.

Hall, who has previously won the British, Commonwealth and Inter-Continental belts, takes on South Africa's Malinga at Leeds' First Direct Arena for the vacant IBF title.

The two fighters completed the formalities of the weigh in yesterday afternoon, with Hall tipping the scales some six ounces heavier than his opponent.

The 33-year-old was just two ounces short of the bantamweight limit, and claims to be in the best condition of his career as he looks to emulate Glenn McCrory by becoming only the second North-Easterner to lift a world title.

“Everything has gone brilliantly,” said Hall, who began boxing at Darlington ABC and also fought for a club in Spennymoor before decamping to Leeds to work under the tutelage of Mick Marsden. “It's the best I've ever felt before any of my fights.

“It's the best I've done the weight, and look at me – I'm full of life and energy. I could get in there now and do some damage, and I'll be even better after I've had a night's rest and taken some liquid on.

“I feel anxious and excited, but mainly just confident. I know what I have to do – and I know that I'm going to do it.

“Malinga had better be ready for me because he's going to get the fight of his life. Some people are saying he's under-estimating me – I hope that's the case because he's going to be in for a shock.

“I'm going to go into that ring as Stuey Hall, and I'm going to come out as Stuey Hall, Darlington's first world champion. That's how it's going to be.”

The Northern Echo: BELT UP: Darlington's Stuart Hall with the British bantamweight belt last year.

Malinga starts tonight's fight as the marginal favourite, having previously held the IBF's international belt. The 34-year-old South African has fought for a world title on two previous occasions, but has only fought once since losing to Leo Santa Cruz in the United States in June 2012.

His southpaw style has troubled some of his previous opponents, but having studied a number of his previous fights, Hall feels he has spotted some deficiencies he can exploit.

“It's all about what I do,” he said. “But I know what to expect from Malinga and I know how to beat him.

“We're both fighters that like to come forward, so I think it's going to be a bit of a war in there. That suits me though, and I'm fine with that.

“I've got a few little tactical things up my sleeve, and I'm pretty confident that I'll be sharper than him from the off. I'll be quicker than him, move better than him and hit harder than he does. Put all that together, and that means I'm going to win.”

The Northern Echo: Stuart Hall in action at the Dolphin Centre, in Darlington, last year

Hall did not turn professional until he was 28, and his career to this point has been building towards tonight's world-title shot.

He claimed his first British title when he beat Ian Napa in Peterlee in 2010, and while he suffered defeats to Jamie McDonnell and Lee Haskins when fighting for Commonwealth and European titles, he claimed the Commonwealth crown when he outpointed the dangerous Josh Wale last November.

His biggest victory to date came when he outclassed Sergio Perales to claim the IBF Inter-Continental title in May, and while tonight's fight represents another significant step up in class, he is confident he can handle whatever is thrown at him.

“This is what I wanted from the moment I first went into a boxing ring,” said Hall. “Every fighter dreams of being a world champion. A lot of people probably didn't think I would get to this point, but I always knew I had it in me.

The Northern Echo: HARD-EARNED WIN: Stuart Hall, right, beat Martin Power to retain his British bantamweight title

“I've been telling people for a while now that I'm going to be world champion. Now, I just have to get in the ring and do it.

“I've earned this chance, and I'm not going to let it slip away now. I want that belt to take home and put under the Christmas tree – it's up to me to make it happen.”

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