MUHAMMAD Ali, Joe Frazier, Rocky Marciano, Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Robinson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Mike Tyson, the list goes on. Tonight you can add Michael Jennings from Chorley, England, to those illustrious names.

It is the fight of a lifetime. Jennings will follow in the footsteps of so many legends of the sport by making his debut at the self-styled mecca of boxing, Madison Square Garden. He faces one of the biggest names of the present day, Miguel Cotto.

Considering that the 31-year-old has emerged - even by boxing’s standards - from the school of hard knocks to reach this point, we should admire his achievement.

Jennings survived death himself when he was stabbed during a night out in Manchester eight years ago.

But he lost two brothers, one to leukaemia and one to heroin addiction, before a close friend died in a car crash as recently as October.

Despite all of that, Jennings’ record of 34 and 1 has seen him progress to claim the WBU world title and reach number two in the rankings for the vacant WBO belt, for which he fights tonight.

“For a person to fight in Madison Square Garden, they had to be a very special individual,” trainer Angelo Dundee once said of the New York venue where his most famous protégé, Ali, was beaten by Frazier in ‘The Fight of the Century’ 38 years ago.

Normally the talk would be about how the biggest task will be dealing with the whole Garden experience.

But on this occasion the greatest challenge will be working out how to even begin dealing with Cotto.

Few outside of Chorley give Jennings any chance against his Puerto Rican opponent, who possessed a mean and determined look in his eyes at the pre-fight press conference.

Cotto - or ‘Coat-o’ as the Americans pronounce it - has a point to prove as he enters the ring for the first time since being stopped in the 11th round by Antonio Margarito last July, the first defeat of his career.

A bout against Jennings is viewed as a step on to greater things, so it was never likely that we would see Cotto travelling to England as Floyd Mayweather did to promote his fight against Ricky Hatton.

More’s the pity, because the possibility of Cotto taunting Jennings – a proud supporter of all sport in Chorley – by donning a Bamber Bridge shirt would have been a sight to behold.

Jennings’ trainer, Brian Hughes, says his man’s task tonight is equivalent to ‘climbing Mount Everest blindfolded’.

But then a similar Everest comparison was made by Burnley boss Owen Coyle ahead of his side’s Carling Cup semi final second leg against Tottenham Hotspur.

They succeeded in climbing the mountain, only to slip into a ravine on the way back down.

Victory against Cotto would change Jennings’ life overnight and catapult him into a world of wealth and mega fights. It is a remarkable prospect for the town of Chorley.

But, if the improbable turns out to be impossible, no-one should think any less of Jennings.

He has already made East Lancashire proud.

* Can Jennings defeat Cotto? Have your say by using the comment facility below.