April 20 – mark the date on your calendars. Why? Because a week today the nation’s top boxing amateur talents descend on the region for the Elite ABAE finals.
Formally known as the Senior ABAE championships, the tournament is rich in history. This year though sees the first time that our region (Tyne, Tees and Wear) has ever hosted the national final.
David Dolan; John McDermott; Carl Froch; Matthew Macklin; Derry Matthews; Paul Smith; Kevin Mitchell; David Price; Martin Murray; Tony Bellew; James Degale.
Jon-Lewis Dickinson; Luke Campbell; Kal Yafai; Stephen Smith; Bradley Saunders; George Groves; Liam Smith; Anthony Ogogo; Tyson Fury; Glenn Foot; Anthony Joshua.
Quite an impressive list of extremely talented boxers but why are they listed? Well the 22 names above are highlighted fighters who since the turn of the millennium have appeared in an ABAE senior elite final.
Securing your ticket for the event at Rainton Meadows Arena on Saturday April 20 could mean you witness the next generation of British and world champions.
Making it through to the final and representing the TTW ABA is both Josh Kelly (Houghton and District) and Declan Fusco (South Durham). There should also at this point be a mention for Joel Spragg (Brighton) who until this year represented Spennymoor. He too has made it to the final.
Last year Declan Fusco made it to the final but in the 86kg cruiserweight competition. This year he has stepped up to 91kg heavyweight division and in reaching the final he had to beat last years 91kg champion Simon Barclay. He’ll meet Greg Bridet (Heart of Portsmouth) in the final.
That’s a very impressive achievement from Fusco, but perhaps even more impressive is the progress of Josh Kelly.
Kelly is competing in the elite competition for the first time after last year winning a national junior title. At the start of the competition Josh said he would be pleased to just qualify from the regional stages, and he is therefore delighted to have made it all the way to the final.
Josh said: “Like I said previously to reach the final in my region and win that was my goal for this season and anything else was a bonus. So to get this far, beating the competition I have, I couldn’t put it into words; it’s been sweet!”
It’s been a tough route to the 63.5kg final for Kelly , where he will meet Chris Mbwakongo (Lynn).
He picks out his pre-quarter-final victory over Ryan Mulcahy and his quarter final win over Sam Bowen (who came in with almost 100 amateur wins to his name) as his best performances so far.
He said of that win: “It was awesome to beat a man who’s next birthday is his 30th. He started boxing probably for the army and seniors before I had even stepped in the ring; it’s a massive feat.
“It wasn’t really a tough fight physically but mentally as the focus levels were through the roof with him being taller and rangy. I had to make very attack count but not get countered.”
He continued: “I think I won the opener but thought he tagged me a few times in the second. When I started to sit off him and let him open up I seemed to run away with it in the third.
“I think it’s a lot to do with my style and the way I can adapt to various bouts and style of fights. I found I can box inside when needed and box on the outside when needed and Mix it in-between. Also being young and fast has helped me a lot.”
As for boxing the final in Sunderland it’s clear for Josh that this is perfect and he is really hoping for as much support as possible.
“I couldn’t have been born and bred in a better place. The finals are here so the support and atmosphere, fingers crossed, could be electric.
“It means everything to box in my hometown especially in the finals and I’m going to try to make it worth while!”
Tickets are still available for the boxing on April 20 which begins at 4pm. Ringside tickets are now sold out, but you can buy stalls tickets for £20 there are a limited number of VIP tickets available at £50.
Tickets are only available by calling 0114 223 5639 or 0114 223 5636. If you are unable to get through please try again as the ABAE are unable to return answer phone messages.
*The regional stages of the junior ABA’s got underway today. The preliminary rounds are taking place now at the Rainton Meadows Arena and we’ll have results from that as soon as we have them.
The full line-up for the Elite finals is:
48kg Waleed Din (Sheffield Lane Top) v Luqmaan Patel (Earlsfield)
51kg Jack Bateson (Burmantofts) v Joel Spragg (Brighton City)
54kg Marc Leach (Ardwick Lads) v Lucien Reid (West Ham)
57kg Jack Daniel (Kellys) v Reece Bellotti (South Oxhey)
60kg Ryan Fillingham (Army) v Isaac Dogboe (Territorial Army)
63.5kg Josh Kelly (Houghton and District) v Chris Mbwakongo (Lynn)
67kg Jeff Saunders (Army) v Sam McNess (Repton)
71kg Scott Fitzgerald (Larches and Savick) v Luke Saunders (West Ham)
75kg Adam Farrell (Salisbury) v Felix Cash (Guildford)
81kg Ashley Vanzie (KBW Dewsbury) v Ricky Crotty (Hoddesdon)
86kg Jack Massey (Northside) v Christopher Billam-Smith (Poole)
91kg Declan Fusco (South Durham) v Greg Bridet (Heart of Portsmouth)
91kg+ Anthony Richardson (Army) v Nicholas Webb (Woking)