Moate’s Joe Ward will be the only Irish boxer in action when the Lionhearts take on Dolce & Gabbana Italia Thunder at the Palamaggiò in Caserta, Italy on Saturday 2 February (20.00 Irish time).
The stand-out fight of this tie is by far the confrontation between the Thunder’s 2011 WSB Individual Light Heavyweight (80-85kg) Champion Abdelhafid Benchabla from Algeria and Joe Ward. The 19-year-old Irishman, the reigning European Champion, has taken to the pro style like a duck to water and now sits second in the individual ranking and in that kind of form, comes into this fight as favourite. Benchabla seems to have lost his way since his triumph nearly two years ago and will need to rise to the occasion against an opponent destined for the very top.
The first bout will be at Bantamweight (50-54kg) and will see fledgling Italian talent Riccardo D’Andrea pitted in his first career WSB appearance against the impressive Brit Sean McGoldrick. Italia Head Coach Francesco Damiani believes that D’Andrea has all the attributes needed to make it to the very top. McGoldrick, who has two victories in as many fights this season, is an extremely gifted fighter so it promises to make for very interesting viewing.
It will be a repeat of the London 2012 Olympic Games round of 16 when Thunder poster-boy Valentino faces the tall Scot Josh Taylor in the Lightweight (57-61kg) contest. The 28-year-old 2009 AIBA World Champion from Italy is finally finding some form after an injury-hit season last year and he will be relishing the prospect of battling Taylor once again. The Lionhearts southpaw is maturing fast and with his big height advantage, this head-to-head will be very exciting one for the fans.
After claiming bronze at the Olympic Games last summer, 24-year-old Mangiacapre has quickly established himself as one of the outstanding talents at Middleweight (68-73kg). The Italian began his WSB career with a sublime victory over Moldova’s Vasilii Belous in week one and he will now be gunning for another win when he locks horns with the Lionhearts’ Estonian bull Kaupo Arro. The fantasy and dynamism of the orthodox Italian make him such a joy to watch.
Mangiacapre said about the fight, “I have been working extremely hard in the gym and I am feeling stronger than ever. My opponent will return home with a loss on his record. It does not matter whom I fight, I have always just focused on myself and so far I am happy with the results. I feel very comfortable in the pro format of WSB and I cannot wait to enter the ring once more”.
Still undefeated and with a WSB record that now stands at 16-0, Italia Team Captain Russo will be the night’s star attraction with the 30-year-old set to take on giant Uaine Fa in the night’s final contest. The 23-year-old Tongan tasted defeat for the first time in WSB when he was out boxed by Olympic Champion Oleksandr Usyk in week five, so he will be looking to cause a major upset against Russo. The clever Italian orthodox however enjoys facing the big lads and will surely put on a show for the huge number of fans that will be there to catch a glimpse of their hero.
Like all other matches this week-end, it will be broadcast LIVE on worldseriesboxingtv.com as well as on Sky Sport 2 in Italy, and on repeat that same evening at 23.45 on Sky Sports Extra, then on Sunday 3 February at 14.00 and at 19.30 on Sky Sports 2.
And of course we will keep you informed of Joe Ward’s bout here on SportsNewsIRELAND.com