"IT JUST happened out of the blue," says John Joyce. "I wasn't expecting it. When Tony Davitt told me, it came as a shock."
The Lucan welterweight was putting in the hard slog in the Celtic Warrior Gym when he learned that his next fight would be in Boston on March 16 against Bronx-based Cork fighter Noel Murphy of the undercard of a show headlined by Mark DeLuca and Jimmy Williams.
Gary 'Spike' O'Sullivan will also fight on the bill, marking his return to the light-middleweight ranks.
Joyce (7-0, 4 KOs) sees his fight with Murphy (12-1-1, 2 KOs) as "a massive step-up for me".
"He has a great record," says Joyce acknowledging Murphy's pro experience which includes a points loss to unbeaten Mikkel LesPierre 12 months ago when he fought for the WBO US super lightweight title.
"I think it's more about me," he adds. "I need to make sure I'm in the best condition I can be in."
While he doesn't underestimate the challenge ahead, coach Davitt reckons the Dublin army man can get the win.
"Murphy's a great mover with nice footwork," he says. "John has height advantage and he can bang. If he boxes the way I know he can, then he'll win."
This is a big fight. If it was staged in Ireland, it would be a headline event.
Joyce knows that a good performance by him could lead to exciting possibilities.
"They love boxing in Boston," he says. "This is my world title fight."
24-year-old Murphy's record speaks for itself. One loss in 14 fights with 12 of those coming on the tough American circuit.
While Joyce is used to testing himself on a daily basis as an army corporal, fighting a man with twice his pro experience in the bear pit that's the House of the Blues on St Patrick's weekend in Boston is likely to ask some tough questions.
"I never though I'd be fighting in America," says Joyce. "But I'm going for it. We'll be there the week before so I'll be well acclimatised.
''Jetlag won't bother me. And I'll have support at the fight of Irish Army veterans who'll be over for the parade."
I'm speaking with Joyce after he's done six blistering rounds of sparring with Owen 'The Butcher' Duffy.
"Camp started four weeks ago and I haven't sparred an orthodox fighter," he says. "I'm just constantly sparring southpaws. All I'm seeing is left-handed people everywhere. I'm getting the southpaw mentality into my head."
Pat Ryan of Portlaoise Boxing Club was impressed by Joyce when he visited the club for sparring in recent weeks.
"He's very disciplined," says the senior coach. "He's a man on a mission. I've watched him spar both elite amateurs and seasoned professionals and his attitude has been superb. He's a well-rounded individual who's a credit to the army ethos."
Although he didn't have a notable amateur pedigree when he began his pro career just over two years ago, Joyce has successfully met every challenge that's come his way.
He's been in against some rough-house fighters but has shown he can box as well as fight. Four KOs in seven fights give an indication of his punching power.
Five weeks out from fight night, Joyce is buzzing.
"I'm lighter than I've ever been around this time in camp," he says. "My weight's coming down nicely."
The fight against Murphy will be Joyce's first eight-round clash.
"It's no different to me," he says. "I'd be more tired in the gym than I would after a fight. My intensity goes through the roof in training. I push myself to the absolute limits. I know that my fitness is never going to bother me. My lifestyle is about fitness."
Joyce is the latest fighter from the Celtic Warrior Gym to fight in the US as Gary O'Sullivan, Niall Kennedy, Steve Ormond and Ray Moylette have established the pathway that Joyce is now following.
"This is a huge fight for me," adds Joyce. "I'm determined to grasp this opportunity."