British Lionhearts ready for return as Rio 2016 race hots up

12 January 2015 / 17:19

GB Boxing performance director Rob McCracken is looking forward to seeing his charges embrace the battle to make Rio 2016 when the British Lionhearts make their return to the ring on Thursday.

Last year the British Amateur Boxing Association opted against fielding a team in the World Series of Boxing (WSB).

However, with increased opportunities to qualify for the Rio Olympic Games by participating in this year’s competition, the team has returned for the 2015 season.

The squad is made-up of 30 boxers from GB Boxing’s Podium and Podium Potential squads and eight overseas selections, and includes London 2012 Olympian and two-time European champion Andrew Selby.

During the course of the season, boxers will accrue ranking points with the top ranked boxers at light-flyweight, heavyweight and super-heavyweight and the top two boxers in each of the other seven weight categories gaining qualification places at Rio 2016.

Head coach of the British Lionhearts McCracken said: “The number of Olympics qualification places available through WSB has increased, so it is important that our boxers take part in the competition to give them as many chances as possible to make it to Rio 2016.

“WSB is a high quality competition and a slightly different format to that which some of our squad are used to, however the last time we participated, the boxers really enjoyed it and felt it was a beneficial experience that had a positive impact on their development and performance.”

The British Lionhearts contest their opening match this Thursday against the China Dragons at York Hall in London.

Five weight categories will be contested with the five-strong team chosen featuring three English and one Welsh medallist from the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Middleweight champion Anthony Fowler has been given the nod as has Quais Ashfaq, Sam Maxwell and Ashley Williams while Romanian heavyweight Ionut-Mirel Jitaru will be the team’s international selection.

And Fowler, who stopped America’s Marquis Moore in the second round on his only previous appearance in an away fixture against USA knockouts in November 2012, was relishing the chance to perform in front of the home fans.

“I feel like I have unfinished business with WSB and am looking forward to getting back in the ring and competing in England,” he said.

“Being part of the GB Boxing squad we compete abroad most of the time so it is brilliant to have the opportunity to box in front of a home crowd at such a great venue as York Hall.  

"If the matches are anything like the last time the British Lionhearts competed in WSB then the fans will be in for a fantastic night of boxing and some great action.”

© Sportsbeat 2015