Nearly a decade after his first crack at the title, Craig Woodruff will go for the Celtic lightweight crown again next weekend – all before a much-anticipated assault on the biggest domestic prize.

The 29-year-old from Newport takes on Scottish southpaw Ronnie Clark on March 12, and then clashes with either fellow Welshman Gavin Gwynne or Luke Willis for the British strap.

St Joseph’s ace Gwynne, the Commonwealth champion, and Liverpool’s Willis face each other at York Hall on April 15, with the vacant Lonsdale Belt up for grabs.

For Woodruff, his primary focus will be on beating Dundee veteran Clark, who he meets at the Vale Arena in Cardiff on a Mo Prior show held in association with TM14 Promotions.

It was back in September 2013, 17 months after his professional debut, that Woodruff first fought for the Celtic lightweight crown.

On that occasion, the former Welsh champion lost on points to another Welshman, ex-St Joseph’s boxer Mitch Buckland, with all three ringside judges giving the latter the decision.

Luke Pearce and Johan Berendjy (pictured below with Woodruff) were at that fight, and three years later they, and Richie Garner, began training Woodruff as Team SMoA, forever striving to secure big title bouts for their man.

South Wales Argus:

And now there is hope within the Woodruff camp that not one but two belts will be finding their way back to Newport in the near future.

Should he go on to claim British honours later this year then Woodruff would be the first Newport fighter to win a Lonsdale Belt since David Pearce, Luke’s Pearce’s uncle, back in 1983.

“Gavin Gwynne and Ryan Walsh had been nominated to fight for the British title and Craig would face Luke Willis in a final eliminator,” explained Pearce.

“But Maxi Hughes was looking for an opponent to defend his IBO world title against and Walsh accepted an offer to fight him.

“The Board then approved a request for Willis to replace Walsh and fight Gavin, but they also said that the winner must defend their title against Craig within 90 days.

“On the same day, Craig was nominated to fight for the vacant Celtic title, and he was originally down to meet Joe Fitzpatrick but he pulled out.

South Wales Argus:

“Craig is now fighting Ronnie Clark (pictured above), a former IBF European champion. He won that title by beating Zelfa Barrett, who was 19-0 at the time.

“That shows the calibre of opponent Craig is up against in Cardiff on March 12. We could have taken a much easier opponent for a tick-over fight, but that’s not what Craig is about.”

When asked if Woodruff’s chances of fighting for the British would be dashed should things not go his way in the capital, Pearce added: “The Board haven’t come out publicly and said that.

“Let’s be frank, if he gets knocked out then there’s a much bigger danger of him not getting the chance than if he were to lose a close one on points.

“But none of that is in our thoughts, Craig has been given an opportunity to win a 50-50 fight and then go for the Lonsdale Belt.

South Wales Argus:

Luke Pearce, right, has been coaching Craig Woodruff for six years

“When we started coaching Craig, we said we would get him fighting for titles and make him the number one contender for the British.

“We wanted to train someone from Newport to become British champion and we are so close now.”