There was a time when the heavyweight champion of the world was considered to be the most powerful puncher on the planet. That time has since passed, partly because many of today’s heavyweights focus more on technique than knockout power. But if the division ever becomes a theater of solely balletic ring generals, Travis Walker will not be the one to blame.

“I can’t see heavyweight boxing going to that because of me,” said the 21-0-1 contender in a phone interview last week.

Walker may be concerned about the future of the heavyweight division because the boxing community will soon determine how big a role he will play in it. The 27-year-old slugger makes his debut tonight on ShoBox: The Next Generation at the Soboba Casino in San Jacinto, California. His opponent, 2004 Olympian Jason Estrada, beat him three times when they were fighting as amateurs.

“The fact that I lost against him a couple of times makes me work harder,” said Walker. “The fact that I can’t stand for heavyweight boxers to look like that … He’s got quick hands, but he has no power and he is not exciting as a fighter.”

Power has been a focus of Walker’s for his entire athletic career. He was born and raised in Tallahassee, Florida. As a defensive end and offensive guard in high school, Walker dreamed of playing for Florida State University. However, when he was unable play big-time college football, Walker turned looked for other ways to utilize his size and athletic ability.

“After football didn’t work out for me, I really didn’t want to do school so I found other means,” said Walker. “Boxing was what I found and I just fell in love with it.”

He did get off to a bit of late start. While most fighters take up the sport in their teens, Walker did not begin boxing until he was 21 years old.

“I actually do wish I had gotten started a little earlier, but I felt like it was the right time for me,” he said. “I had a lot of time on my hands to devote myself to boxing. When I was playing football, I didn’t have that kind of time it takes to train to be the champ.”

Because of his previous athletic endeavors, Walker was able to pick up the sport a little quicker. However, he makes no bones about which training regimen is the toughest.

“I’ve trained for a lot of different things and boxing is the hardest training ever,” said Walker.

As an amateur, Walker had a successful career. In 2003, he won the National Golden Gloves championship at super heavyweight. However, he was eliminated at the 2004 Olympic trials. One of the fighters he lost to was Estrada.

“Amateur style is basically pitty pat, move around,” said Walker. “[The judges] really don’t want you to get hit. You can get hit with something as simple as a jab and they will take a point away from you.”

As a professional, Walker currently trains at Main Boxing Gym in downtown Houston, and has served as a sparring partner for Wladimir Klitschko and Oleg Maskaev. He feels that his style is much better suited for the professional ranks and so far, there is nothing to disprove that. Walker is undefeated with 17 knockouts to his credit. His fights are averaging a little over two rounds, as Walker always goes for the knockout win.

“That’s always the mindset but I get lucky a lot,” he said.

Tonight’s bout with Estrada will be the biggest test of his career so far. Estrada is 7-0 with one knockout. While Estrada was a more dominant amateur boxer, Walker feels that the tables will turn at the professional level.

“[Amateur boxing] was tailor-made for Estrada, but it’s the pro game now,” said Walker. “This is a whole different game.”

Walker last sparred on Friday. He arrived in California on Wednesday and his exercises this week have been light. His main focus is on tonight’s watershed bout.

“I’m very excited,” he said. “I’m ready to show what I’ve got to the world.”

If he wins tonight, Walker will try to be part of the undercard for the Samuel Peter/James Toney rematch on January 6, 2007. After that, he will continue plugging away towards his ultimate goal.

“I’m just gonna let my promoters and managers keep stretching me out from there,” said Walker. “I’m just gonna do what I’m supposed to do and they’re gonna do what they’re supposed to do. We got a champion coming.”