Norfolk boxer Ryan Walsh will fight for a world title in spring.

The 35-year-old, from Cromer, will challenge Maxi Hughes for his IBO world lightweight crown in Leeds on March 26.

“I am beyond excited,” said Walsh. “Yes, it has caught us a little bit by surprise. I was made the mandatory for the British lightweight title, which I was happy about, and then this came along, and this was a no-brainer.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for Maxi and his team. I’ve done some rounds with Maxi so we have a bit of history.

“I think this is the most excited I have been in boxing, and I’ve been in boxing for 21 years. So expect the best from me and I expect the best from him.”

Walsh has made the natural progression from featherweight to lightweight.

"My oldest brother has been telling me to be a lightweight for the last three years so no one is going to be happier than Michael Walsh to see me at lightweight,” he said.

“We don’t want any excuses in boxing we want to perform our best and I think at lightweight it gives me my chance to perform at my best.

Hughes, 31, is well known to Walsh - he was twin brother Liam’s last opponent, more than two years ago – a fight that went the way of the local fighter. Since then, Hughes’ career has taken an upward curve.

“We known Maxi better than probably anyone knowns him,” said Walsh. “Liam fought him. Liam beat him. After he fought my brother I thought he was done but it’s one of the best comebacks from defeat to the stage he is at and you can only tip your hat to him.”

The fight was announced on Friday afternoon and comes just weeks after Walsh’s next career move was in the balance.

The former British featherweight champion returned to the rankings in December after a victory in Norwich over Ronnie Clark – a late replacement after his original opponent pulled out.

Had that fight not taken place, then it is unlikely Walsh would have got this world title shot.

“It doesn’t bear thinking about where Ryan would have been if we hadn’t plucked Ronnie Clark to fight,” said trainer Graham Everett.

"On the week of that fight we didn’t have an opponent and Ryan could easily have been off that bill.

“But we got him back, got him active, he won and was then made mandatory for the British title, which he is now, which will also be for the Commonwealth title.

“In the meantime, Team MTK and Matchroom put together the opportunity for Ryan to fight Maxi for the IBO title – and you have gone from nothing to a life changing fight.

“It is so good – and he deserves it. All that time when we were going through that period of frustration he kept in the gym, we kept working together, the opportunity came, the win came and look where we are now.

“But he is a championship fighter and when you are a Championship fighter those opportunities come.”