DEAN SUTHERLAND’S rise through the professional ranks has been rapid by anyone’s standards.

Just a year-and-a-half ago, the former kickboxer made the decision to switch sports and since then, the Aberdeen has emerged as one of the most exciting up-and-coming boxers in the country.

In his short time as a boxer, Sutherland has already picked up the BUI Celtic welterweight belt and he is set to continue his progression this evening, when he takes on Lithuanian Edvinas Puplauskas in Aberdeen.

This will only be Sutherland’s ninth professional bout but the unbeaten boxer has already impressed, with former British and European champion Gary Jacobs touting him as “one of the most exciting Scottish boxers he’s seen for a long time”.

While Sutherland has the belief he can go far in the sport, he admits the speed of his progress has surprised even himself.

“I always knew I’d be successful, I just didn’t know how long it would take,” he said.

“I really never thought I’d be jumping up the rankings as fast as I have. I knew I was going to really push myself and get past the journeyman stage but I didn’t realise I’d be making steps up this quickly.

“It’s been incredible – to think that it was only about a year-and-a-half ago that I was just deciding to go into boxing, to have won my first title, have beaten three opponents with positive record, be 14th or 15th in Britain and be by far the youngest near the top, it’s been pretty remarkable. That gives me a real buzz of excitement and is why I wanted to get into professional boxing in the first place.”

With his kickboxing background, Sutherland was never going to settle for being an also-ran in boxing. He reached the very top in kick-boxing, becoming world amateur champion, so for some, it would seem an unusual decision to then switch sports.

Sutherland, who works as an electrician, is in no doubt that he has made the right choice though.

“I’d won everything in kickboxing that I wanted to win,” the 21-year-old explains.

“And so I could have become a professional kickboxer but it’s not a very high-profile sport and you can’t make a living out of it. So I decided I was going to do something else – the options were either going into MMA or going into boxing and boxing has always been my passion. So it was an easy decision.”

Sutherland is, he says, in the shape of his life for this evening’s fight but the plan was that he would, in fact, be contesting a Commonwealth title eliminator tonight although that hasn’t transpired. Sutherland also challenged Scottish champion, Stewart Burt to a bout but the Glaswegian turned down the offer but Sutherland admits it is something of a compliment that the Scottish title holder is not keen to face him just yet.

“Stewart Bur rejected the offer twice - he said he only wanted it if the fight was a Commonwealth title eliminator. It will hopefully happen – the date that’s planned for is March next year. The second offer, he would get a higher purse than me and he wouldn’t have any tickets to sell but he still didn’t want it. There’s lots of politics in boxing,” he said.

“It is a compliment that someone like him doesn’t want to fight me. But at the same time, that isn’t on your record that he’s rejected it – all your record says is who’ve you’ve actually fought and what you’ve won.”

Sutherland may still be in the fledgling stages of his career but he has no doubt where he wants to get to. Having reached the heights he did in kickboxing, he is clear he wants to achieve a similar status in boxing.

“I think everyone’s target is to make their passion their full-time career and that’s definitely my goal with the boxing. I’m not quite there yet but that’s the plan,” he said.

“Because I’ve competed at such a high level in kickboxing, I want to get to a high level in boxing too. In kickboxing, I won basically everything I could and that’s pretty much the mentality I have.

“I wouldn’t put it past me to be competing for world honours. That’s the dream that everyone wants to do. I know I’m still quite a bit away from that at the moment but I’ve got time on my side.

“If you take out Amir Khan and Josh Taylor who are past British level, already, I’d put myself as the best welterweight in Scotland, even though I don’t have the belt, and be up there in British terms.

“So I think once I get a bit more experience, I think I’ll shock a lot of people and I definitely think I can go onto British, Commonwealth and European titles.”