GB Lionhearts' General Manager Sees Bright Future Ahead
Great Britain's best boxers hope to move a step closer to claiming a one million euro jackpot this week - and GB Lionhearts general manager Matt Archibald believes it can only be a good thing for the future of the amateur code.
GB Lionhearts take on the Astana Arlans from Kazakhstan on Thursday night and then Ukraine at the start of next month, with victory in either enough to guarantee progression to the lucrative play-off phase of the World Series of Boxing.
With the seven figure, winner-takes-all prize fund providing a significant carrot to tempt young fighters to put themselves forward for the format, Archibald hopes it will provide plenty of increased competition for the long run-in towards Rio 2016.
Archibald said: "The WSB is giving young boxers far more avenues to compete at the highest level. Those involved are doing well financially and it definitely does offer them a different career option.
"In the past some boxers would feel they had no option but to turn professional, but now there is the chance to be part of a squad and the security that brings in terms of funding and the financial incentives."
Olympic silver medallists Fred Evans and John Joe Nevin are the highest profile members of this season's inaugural Lionhearts line-up, with Archibald convinced it can continue to improve and evolve out of its current base at Bethnal Green's York Hall.
He said: "We have been in negotiations to stage some events at the Copper Box, and we are also open to staging shows elsewhere if there was a compelling reason to do so.
"With the likes of John Joe and Joe Ward involved, Ireland is not beyond the realms of possibility.
"I am convinced there is scope for both the franchise and the WSB to grow. They have been selling out arenas in Italy and the interest will only increase when bigger fighters get involved as we move forward towards the next Olympics."
The WSB's semi-professional format - in which fighters compete without vests or headguards over an extended five-round contest - has earned praise and thrown up classics like last month's flyweight epic between Andrew Selby and Belfast rival Michael Conlan.
It has proved enough for the likes of Conlan and Nevin to fully commit to the long haul, and while it may have come too late to tempt the likes of gold medallists Anthony Joshua and Luke Campbell, for future generations the choice will not be quite so cut and dried.
"We're very pleased with how things have gone so far," added Archibald. "We've had a great reception in the media and among fans, and everyone has seen it for what it is, some really good, high-quality boxing.
"The bout between Selby and Conlan last time was one of the best I've seen in any format for a long time. We've got a strong team that has done very well, and now it's up to us to push on and seal qualification for the next stage."