PARKERSBURG - Seeking his 10th consecutive win to open his professional career, Dustin Echard is set for tonight's showdown against Brian "The Bull" Holstein at the Lifestyle Communities Pavilion in Columbus, Ohio.
The scheduled eight-rounder is for both the vacant Ohio state cruiserweight title and the junior cruiserweight belt for the North American Boxing Federation.
"I feel great. I feel as good as I've ever been and I feel more polished," said Echard, who carries a 9-0-0 record with six knockouts. "Since my fight with Eric (Watkins to win the W.Va. light heavyweight championship) that was a great learning experience and I've used the time in between to polish up on some things.
"Just to add some extra tools to the belt. I'm in as good as shape as I've ever been. My cardio is up and I've been doing eight rounds and working a lot of pad work and training with some pros in Pittsburgh. I've had the best training in the region that I can possibly spar with."
Echard, who was dubbed the "Clean Coal Assassin" shortly into his pro career, said he wouldn't mind swapping that out at some point. After all, he's no longer working in the mines with CONSOL Energy after switching to the natural gas side of the industry as an assistant drilling engineer.
"No more coal mining and no more underground world anymore," added Echard, who noted the nickname "Driller" has been tossed about. "I used Panama Red from my toughman days and it kind of fits with my red hair."
Holstein (8-1-0, 6 KOs) and Echard have had just one common opponent - Shawn Laughery. Holstein was knocked down in his fight against Laughery in both the fifth and sixth rounds and lost a six-round unanimous decision in April 2013. Echard went the distance against Laughery last August at Vienna's Fish Bone Gill and Grill, winning a six-round unanimous decision.
"This is going to be outdoors if it doesn't rain and the promoter said if it was going to rain they'll move it inside," said Echard's manager Mike Sheppard, who will be in the corner along with Sam Jones, Brian Camichis and a cutman from Pittsburgh.
Echard understands he has a long way to go in the sport to get to where he'd like to be, but this is another big stepping stone he's not taking lightly and compared it to a chess match.
"He's got to bring it if he wants any chance of winning. He has to come at me," said the former Parkersburg South and Fairmont State pitcher. "He has to try and come at me with what he's got. If he stays out where I can reach him it's not going to go the way he wants.
"That's what I expect from him. I just have to use my distance and my speed. I'm going to be aggressive. I have to fight smart, defense first, take my shots, be tough and have fun."