Lausanne, Switzerland - After finding themselves fifth and just outside the quarter-final qualification places in the Group B table, Ukraine Otamans are now looking to haul themselves back into contention by putting two Olympic medallist in the ring to face the visiting British Lionhearts this Friday 11 January (20:00 local time). The fans at the Acco International Exhibition Centre in the Ukrainian capital Kiev will be salivating at the prospect of seeing both Olympic bronze medallist Oleksandr Gvozdyk and one of their country's crown jewels, Olympic and World Champion Oleksandr Usyk, in action.
22-year-old diminutive Ukrainian Ivan Ilnytskyy will be taking to the canvas first for the home team when he battles exciting British talent Sean McGoldrick in the Bantamweight (50-54kg) contest. It will be very tough for Ilnytskyy, who has yet to win in his three World Series of Boxing (WSB) outings, with his orthodox opponent having a huge height and reach advantage in this one. The accomplished McGoldrick on the other hand looked made for the competition after an impressive debut victory against the experienced Braulio Avila Juarez in week one.
At Lightweight (57-61kg), the showdown between Dmytro Rudenko and the Lionhearts' 24-year-old Samuel Maxwell will be intriguing with both keen to make their mark. Southpaw Rudenko is an aggressive fighter that really enjoys coming inside and he will relish doing just that in order to deal with the threat posed by his taller opponent. The Brit narrowly lost on his WSB debut and now has a point to prove.
Another Ukrainian southpaw, Olexandr Stretskyy, will also be making his maiden WSB appearance on the night, with the 26-year-old set to go head-to-head with flamboyant Scot Aston Brown at Middleweight (68-73kg). Stretskyy is an unknown quantity at this level but has a reputation of also getting up close and personal. Brown will need to knuckle down, box at distance and keep his focus to stand any chance against the hardened Otamans fighter.
Undefeated WSB season two star Gvozdyk will make his long-awaited return to the competition after his exploits at the Olympic Games this summer to lock horns with the Lionhearts' experienced Swede Babacar Kamara in the Light Heavyweight (80-85kg) bout. The classy 25-year-old Ukrainian proved his pedigree last campaign, beating some of the toughest boxers in his weight category, so should have too much for his opponent on the night.
Gvozdyk told us, "The team is in great shape and we are feeling very confident for the rest of the season. I cannot wait to see us performing against the British Lionhearts. The fans will be treated to a real show, that is for sure".
The fight of the night will by far be the last of the evening as Usyk enters the ring to face the imposing and undefeated Lionhearts Tongan Uaine Fa. These two Heavyweight (91+kg) colossi promise to put on one hell of a battle. 25-year-old southpaw Usyk will be testing himself for the very first time in the pro format of WSB and Fa will represent an extremely tough test.
The reigning Olympic and World Champion declared, "I have taken my training to a new level in preparation for this fight. The WSB will be different and new so have had to really study my opponent. It was Christmas here in the Ukraine yesterday so I have had to be careful what I eat! But I take everything with humour so I wish both my opponent and myself the best of luck for Friday".
The Tongan, a fan favourite with the Indian team last season, stated "I feel good going into this fight. I am fit and so I am confident that I can do well. I know Usyk well, as he is the Olympic Champion at 91kgs, so he will be a very tough opponent, but I hope that my extra size will give me the edge".
With the Otamans finding themselves one place off the foot of the table in their group, it is vital for them to get the win here. The Lionhearts have shown in their first four outings that they can mix it up with the best so this match promises to really set the pulses racing.
Ireland and St Michael’s Athy team-mates David Oliver Joyce and Eric Donovan are slated to clash in the first ever all-Irish World Series of Boxing (WSB) fight when the German Eagles host the Astana Arlans of Kazakhstan in Hannover, Germany on Saturday night.
The historic lightweight Group B duel at the Kuppelsaal Congress Centrum will be a repeat of the 2012 Irish Elite semi-final which Joyce won (16-11) at Dublin’s National Stadium.
The Kildare duo also met in the 2007 and 2010 57kg and 60kg Irish Elite finals, both national deciders swinging either way by seven-point margins, Joyce winning the 2007 final 20-13 and Donovan claiming a 17-10 decision from the 2010 rematch at the Stadium.
Saturday’s meeting could also be a forerunner for the 2013 Irish Elite Championships 60kg final next month.
Joyce has won one fight for the Eagles this season and Donovan toppled Serbia’s Branimir Stankovic – who beat his Irish team-mate and 2012 Olympic silver medallist John Joe Nevin this term – in a five-round slugfest to help the Arlans defeat defending WSB Team champions Italia Thunder in Almaty, Kazakhstan last month.
“We fought a few times in the past and they have always been cracking contests and I’m expecting the same in Germany. It’s a first for the club and Irish boxing and may the best man win on the night,” said Joyce.
Dominic O’Rourke,Director of Boxing with the Irish Amateur Boxing Association and head coach at the St Michael’s Athy BC, has worked Joyce’s and Donovan’s corners on numerous occasions.
He said: ”David and Eric have been with the club from a young age, ten or eleven years old, and they are two world class boxers.
“Every time they met at the National Stadium they always produced fantastic contests, real edge of-the-seat stuff. Next Saturday in Germany will be a first as they will box over five rounds.
“It promises to be very exciting. The bout has captured the imagination of the club and I have no doubt that it will be another fantastic contest.”
The Arlans travel to Hannover five points clear of the hosts at the top of Group B.
The Eagles are lying in fourth position heading into week 5 of the WSB season.
The top four teams in Group A and B qualify for the quarter-finals.
German Eagles v Astana Arlans Hannover, Germany January 12th
Bantamweight – Nicolae Razvan Andreiana v Bagdad Alimberkov
Lightweight – David Oliver Joyce v Eric Martin Donovan
Middleweight – Xhek Paskali v Sergiy Derevyanchenko
Light-heavyweight- Serge Michel v Hrvoje Filip
Heavyweight – Eric Brechlin v Filip Hrgovic
Meanwhile, Joe Ward and John Joe Nevin and Michael Conlan and Sean Turner will be on opposing sides when the British Lionhearts host the USA Knockouts at York Hall, London on January 17.
Conlan, a bronze medal winner at London 2012, debuts for the Knockouts against current European champion Andrew Selby, while Lionhearts lightweight Nevin meets France’s Daouda Sow in a battle of the 2008 and 2012 Olympic silver medallists.
The Selby/Conlan five-rounder is a repeat of the 2011 AIBA World Championships quarter-final which Selby edged by a single-point in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Both boxers qualified for London 2012 by virtue of reaching the last-eight in the Azeri capital.
Ward, the current European light-heavyweight champion, will be aiming for his third WSB victory of the season for the Lionhearts versus Croatia’s Marco Calic in the East End of London.
If the Moate BC southpaw beats Calic then he could go top of the WSB Individual rankings. He currently occupies 3rd position.
London 2012 silver medallist Fred Evans and Frazer Clarke will also line out for the star-studded Lionehearts team, who will be looking to extend their unbeaten home run to three victories.
Lionhearts General Manager Matt Archibald is eagerly looking forward to hosting the USA Knockouts at York Hall, a venue considered by many to be the home of British boxing.
“We are keen for the British Lionhearts to have a recognized home venue for the remainder of the season where we can look to build a fanbase, he said.
"The agreement with York Hall and its owners GLL enables us to do this and provides the team with a home for the rest of this season in an iconic boxing venue."
The Lionhearts are away to the Ukraine Otamans on Friday.
Cannock’s Dave Egan is excited at the prospect of boxing on the undercard of Frankie Gavin’s first British Welterweight title defence later this month.
Egan will meet an as yet unnamed opponent on the night Gavin takes on Jason Welborn at Walsall Town Hall (Friday, 18th January). The show, which will also be broadcast live on BoxNation, is a sell-out and the 29 year-old former Chasetown FC star cannot wait to make his television debut in front of a capacity crowd.
“It’s going to be some night,” he told www.uko-boxing.com . “It’s easily the biggest show I’ve been involved in. It’s a massive show.
“Walsall is probably the most local town to me being from Cannock, so I just can’t wait. To be on this undercard in only my fourth professional fight is brilliant.”
Egan made his name from lacing up football boots rather than gloves. He played 238 games and captained Evostick League outfit, Chasetown FC during two separate spells in a nine year period.
However, a back injury, coupled with a desire to properly test himself in the ring, saw him switch sports for good last year.
“At 17 I had about 18 months as an amateur boxer,” he added. “I loved it but then my football career took off and I was getting paid good money for that, so my boxing career went by the wayside.
“I continued to box once in a while, I won the ABA Novice Midlands title in 2011 and had 16 amateur contests in total, but that was over a ten-year period.
“Then I picked up a back injury, which hampered my football career, and that brought me back to boxing.
“I tried to give up football at the end of last season but, after a few phone calls from the Chasetown manager (Craig Harris), I came back for a few games earlier this season.
“I realised though that, at 29, I want to have a proper crack at boxing and have hung up my football boots for good now to concentrate on my boxing.
“You can’t do both; mainly because of the injuries. If you could guarantee you wouldn’t get injured playing football, it would be good fitness training for the boxing, but you can’t guarantee that.”
The light welterweight has made an impressive start to his professional career, recording three straight victories. However he’s conscious that, as something of a late starter in the paid ranks, he should be looking for quality over quantity when it comes to his future opponents.
“I need to test myself against good opposition,” he continued. “I’d rather lose a fight than just be in against boxers who I am able to beat up every round. I want to test myself.
“I’m taking each fight as it comes and hope to be in a competitive fight on the Gavin versus Welborn undercard.
“The plan is to keep learning and progressing. It would be great to fight for an Area title or Masters title this year and then push on from there.”
The fight takes place on promoter Frank Warren's first show of 2013 - in association with Midlands promoter Errol Johnson – at Walsall Town Hall on Friday, 18th January.
The show is a sell-out but it is also live and exclusive on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 437/Virgin Ch. 546). Subscribe at www.boxnation.com .
Walsall Town Hall Box Office - 0845 111 2900 – have started a waiting list should more tickets become available.