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Leeds Rhinos legend Kevin Sinfield MBE has received one of the city’s highest civic honours this week.

1920_sinfield1In a special ceremony held at Leeds Civic Hall, ‘Sir Kev’ as he is affectionately known by many Rhinos fans was recognised for his fantastic contribution to the game and to the city with the ‘Leeds Award’, which was presented by the Lord Mayor, Councillor Judith Chapman.

Kevin, who was made captain of the club at the age of just 22, was surprised with the accolade by the leader of Leeds City Council Councillor Judith Blake at a special city dinner marking the historic treble by the Rhinos last season. This week’s event was a chance for the 35-year-old to collect his award in person and see his name written on the hall of fame ‘Leeds Award’ wall.

During an illustrious 18-year career, Kevin, who led the Rhinos to seven Super League titles, two Challenge Cups, and three League Leader’s shields also scored close to 4,000 points for the Headingley side before announcing a move late last year to rugby union and Leeds Carnegie.

Capped 14 times by Great Britain and 27 times by England who he also skippered, Kevin also claimed the prestigious 2012 Golden Boot which is an award for the best rugby league player in the world.

During his time in Leeds, Kevin has also been a tremendous role model to both young and old, and continues to add his support to a range of community projects, campaigns and initiatives in the city.

The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Judith Chapman said:

“It was a real honour to welcome Kevin to the civic hall and be able to present him in person with the Leeds Award which is richly deserved.

“Kevin’s achievements in rugby league and especially for the Rhinos are well known, but it is also his work outside the game, and his outstanding personal qualities that made him such a stand-out candidate to be given this accolade.”

Leader of Leeds City Council, Councillor Judith Blake said:

“Kevin is an exceptional role model who has contributed massively not just to the game of rugby, but also in such a positive way to the city of Leeds during his truly outstanding career.

“It was only right therefore that as a city we acknowledged Kevin’s immense contribution, which is why last year support was unanimous when his name was first mentioned for a Leeds Award. As I said at the time when the award was announced, Kevin simply is the epitome of what you want a sportsperson to be, and a real inspiration, especially to our young people.”

 

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He is regarded by many boxing pundits as the ‘next big thing’. Leeds born Ismail Khan is creating waves within the pugilistic sport and has already created quite a stir after winning the 52kg Senior Elite English Title Belt against Hull ABC’s Ryan Gibbons in February.

jygjuygbKhan, who wants to continue in the footsteps of current British boxing sensation Amir Khan, is a former Cleckheaton Boxing Academy who recently joined the KBW Boxing Gym in Dewsbury

With his baby faced looks, Khan can easily be described as the next ‘Baby-Faced Assassin’, a name that was used to describe hall of famer Marco Antonio Barrera throughout his career. With lighting hands and equally swift footwork, Khan’s natural ability and skill level has surprised many.

The Elite English belt is the latest accolade to join the young prospect’s growing collection and one which was made extra special with the support of his team.

“I can’t believe this achievement,” he said. “I have an amazing team at KBW, brilliant coaches and team mates that keep me motivated, and I wouldn’t be where I am without them all.

“I also want to say a special thank you to my sponsor for their continued support.”

 

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by James Oddy
by James Oddy

Of all the mega fight of recent years, Khan vs Canelo is the most left field. It was widely expected that the Mexican superstar Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez was due to take on Gennady Golovkin in a fight for (more or less) the unified middleweight title. Khan, after missing out on the big names of Mayweather Jr and Pacquiao, was expected to finally agree to a domestic dust up with Kell Brook at welterweight. Instead, with little notice, the imminent fight was announced raking even the most knowledgeable insider by surprise.

Many immediately congratulated Khan for his bravery, jumping up two weight divisions. Many also questioned his sanity. Yet in many ways the fight is a smart move from Khan. He has repeatedly said he only wants the very biggest fights from now on. The biggest name in boxing after Mayweather and Pacquiao is now Canelo. Alvarez is a fine boxer but isn’t perfect, and has had issues with slippery boxers who refuse to stand and trade with him. Khan’s fast hands, explosive foot movement and unpredictable angles could provide that. The big worry is Khan’s chin, which badly exposed at lighter weights, handles the jump up. Alvarez’s knockout of James Kirkland last year was arguably the best of last year. Kirkland also has a subject chin but he’s a natural middleweight and an inside fighter who was left pole axed.

saul-canelo-alvarez-boxing-amir-khan_3423670I personally think Khan can win. Even if he loses somewhat respectively, his stock should rise. In the past, Khan had the admirable yet suicidal tendency to fight fire with fire when hurt. Virgil Hunter has largely removed that from his game and had him fighting more tactical, defensive fights. I expect the plan for Khan to be to dart in, unleash flurries and dart out. He’ll have to box off the back foot and employ plenty of lateral movement.

The issue might be if Khan were to win. He’d either have to fight destroyer Golovkin or vacate, I suspect he’d do the latter – but then his only option would be cut back in weight to welterweight or light middle. History has shown the difficulties of dropping down in weight considerably. Just look at what it did to the great Roy Jones.

Alvarez%20Khan%20Boxing(2)Should a fight with Brook happen, it could be Brook, still to have a real war in his career save for his title winning victory over Shawn Porter, against a shop-worn and cashing out Khan. From a boxing fans perspective, that would be a tragedy. It’d also deprive the sport of Alvarez vs Golovkin.

All told, the fight is as intriguing as much for what could happen outside the ring as in it. My heart wants Khan to triumph, an exciting boxing who’s been unlucky to not get the big fights the public wanted him to get. My head says the bigger, stronger Canelo, by mid round KO.

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by James Oddy

The biggest fight in British boxing finally happened, and, depending on who you talk to, it was a chess match which sparked into a war, a tactical slip up, or an overpriced none event. It was undefeated ‘world’ champions, Scott Quigg and Carl Frampton, meeting in the formers home town of Manchester for the WBC and IBF super bantamweight titles they held respectively.

Really, it was a mixture of all three. In the action itself, Belfast man Frampton largely controlled more than half the rounds by boxing, moving and exposing some flaws in the Mancunians footwork. Quigg, tough as nails and with the fitness you’d expect from a self-described ‘boxing obsessive’, shelled up and followed Frampton around the ring, losing rounds and eating shots, resulting in a broken jaw. It wasn’t bad, it was just odd, as these two rivals who had grown increasingly bitter as the week went on, both seemed content to let rounds slip by.

Even Frampton, who was landing on occasions and picking up points, seemed hesitant to open up and throw real combinations, despite Quigg’s body being left exposed. After it eventually dawned on Quigg and his corner they were losing on the cards badly, the pace picked up. Quigg was happy to work on the inside, and Frampton, either via choice or tiredness, was obliging. The 8th, 9th and 10th were all exciting, as the pair banged away to head and body, Quigg showing some beautiful rolling defence to slip Frampton’s increasingly ragged looking hooks. Still, Frampton hurt Quigg with some punishing body shots, and a hook form Quigg did the same.

It seemed set for a grand stand finish in the 12th, but Frampton boxed superbly, moving in and out of range and tying Quigg up whenever he got too close for comfort. Frampton was a deserving winner, on a split decision. The judge who awarded it to Quigg frankly needs investigating. It wasn’t worth £16 as such, but I don’t think it’s ever fair to blame fighters for not ‘living up’ to a PPV event. Their role is to win and take as little punishment as possible.

Whilst your writer enjoyed it, the talk of a rematch is unwelcome. Quigg’s tactics were all wrong, and it’s hard to understand what they really were. One could argue if he had started at a quicker pace he may have had more success. But for now, I’d much prefer Quigg to take on Matchroom stable mate, bantamweight world champion Jamie McDonnell, who has spoken of moving up. McDonnell, from Doncaster, defeated then undefeated Tomoki Kameda twice last year away from home in Texas, and deserves some exposure. Both Quigg and McDonnell can box but also brawl and it’s a mouth-watering contest.

I hope Frampton meets brilliant Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux, who is Frampton’s mandatory after all. Guillermo is a once in a generation fighter and a pound for pound top five, who takes on game Scouser Jazza Dickins this month in Liverpool. But despite Frampton saying he wants it, his promoters, Cyclone, have ruled it out. The other name, unbeaten Mexican-American Leo Santa Cruz, is also appealing, and a tough fight, but Rigondeaux deserves it.

As always, the business of boxing can be more interesting than what happens in ring!

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By Ansar Jawed (1st March 2016) at the Carol windows stadium, Bradford

Don’t you just hate those statistics? Even more when they are silently screaming nonsense and making you wonder why we rely on them: pure and utter bull?

I mean come on; more than half the possession, more shots (a dozen to be precise), more shots on target, more corners and for a kick in the teeth while you are eating grass and without the rub of the green… with less fouls, we lose! How’s that work out?

Teams rely on fans, the twelfth man! They are inspired by their songs and their anthems, created with passionate heart racing, loud battle cries and vibrant colourful waves of support.

Colchester had only what, fifty, from a population of more than 104,000 people?

I have heard that In AD 77 it was called Camulodunum by the Romans and is said to be the earliest known reference to a fixed settlement in Britain, hence the claim to be Britain’s oldest recorded town. Having said all that, to be fair, Essex is a long long way from Bradistan.

This is the problem with some losers, the under dogs, and Bantams have themselves done it to the likes of Chelsea; it ups their game, it lifts them up, it inspires them to be the giant killers!

In other words if the fans do not play it right, it works for the opposition more than it works for their own team. Boo your team at your peril when it is in need of your support.

As doubles go their guy Ambrose doubled his score, his team had secured a double against the Bantams this season. A double disappointment for us in an away loss and then at home to the same team who had not won for the past 19 games.

In the opening half of the first half we were full of steam and running like a well-oiled engine. Wes Thomas put us ahead with the crowd’s favourite new boy, live wire Josh Cullen’s pass. Why, there was even some talk of a cricket score from Bradford fans already.

The bantams had counted their bantams before they were hatched.

Struggling Colchester, the team that had not won since their home success of 2-1 in October started to come together. And lo and behold, with their new Manager who had not seen his side win since his appointment had levelled the score before half time.

We were expecting and looking out for a real wind whirling snow storm but I could feel some perspiration in my fingers.

Come the second half and it was game on.

Something went wrong with the host team. It was as though someone had put different heads on different players in Bradford dressing room. Reed was not reading right and James was not heading or jumping right. All were doing unexpected things including the manager.

We hadn’t played this rubbish for ages!

It was definitely a bad day at the office. A case of don’t ask… It happens to the best of us. I mean ask Chelsea, ask Man U, ask anyone but don’t ask me!

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By Ansar Jawed

It is ironic to realise that ‘dead ball delivery’, is the same as what’s called, ‘a set piece’. When a team is on the whole lacking in confidence, communication or is arrogantly careless, it gets undone during these set pieces.

Ut_HKthATH4eww8X4xMDoxOjBzMTt2bJWithout rubbing it in, as I know well enough how it feels to be on the receiving end. It happened to Southend United in front of 17,000 pair of eyes last month not once but twice. The two said goals were posted in a chalk cheese fashion by the host team which is as we know usually shy of hitting the net in any outing.

The first was a free kick from McMahan, a curling Waseem Akram like swinger towards the top left corner from around 25 yards, well out of the reach of the despairing air born keeper.

The other came in the second half in the 75th minute, again a McMahan delivery from a corner which found Hanson’s head and bounced off the post and then off the limbs of one or two of the players and finally dribbled into the goalmouth.

It’s a small world; they say but don’t let that warm your hearts about how common human or playing conditions are between us and them. There are not so many. They were not here to lose; Phil, their manager, neither their team nor their fans would love to stay above us in the table and I bet in their geographical positions as well.

Phil-Parkinson-Bradford-CityThe temperature, a couple of degrees above Pennine’s Wuthering heights, no doubt, is enough to make any of the visiting fans wish they were back in in the 42 square kilometres of the North side of the Thames estuary instead of being here, getting poked by the settling icy particles of the numbing Northern air.

As similarities go, apart from having a newspaper also called the, ’Echo’ they have a similar naming Gaffer, ironically called Phil as well, Phil Brown. He most certainly is a familiar figure, who can be frequently heard at 5 Alive and seen as a footy expert on our screens. To his credit you may also remember that he was the first manager who led Hull City to their first flight to the top division in their 104- year history.

Bradford was where the two Phil’s locked horns and produced a match worth getting out and sitting in the gigantic fridge avoiding, living with an unhealthy premiership viewing addictions.

Southend played threateningly and with more fluidity than Bradford in the first half to start with but as the evening wore on Bantams gained rhythm and rhyme. Nearly half way in the first half they were asking questions and having the lion’s share of the possession with an all-important first goal.

Bantams kick started the second half but clearly united had been given their orders to pull no punches and pull one back, they were showing renewed vigour and throwing the spanner in the works. Second goal is always a decider and United were hell-bent on going for it.

James Hanson is a big lad and gets roughed up from all quarters. He might not come across as having the grace of an Arab through bread, but he is an important central rock solid figure of this team. He has grown tall in stature and confidence especially with his own two goal contribution in the historic 4-0 win at the Posh of the previous match. It therefore is befitting for James to have had the last say.

The team seems to have jelled at the right time ready for the big push. In PP we trust; to set records and make histories at this club. Who knows what may surprise us around the corner, but we are now well set up for the fight, for a chance, hope and possibilities. We might be cold but are definitely looking up.

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by James Oddy
by James Oddy

Very little about David Haye is conventional. Articulate, opinionated and a superb athlete, he made a career out of making his own choices and dictating his own terms in and out of the ring. And it appears he’s back… and as unconventional as ever.

Weighing in significantly heavier than ever before and looking in great shape, Haye made light work out of knocking out over matched Australian Mark De Mori on Freeview channel Dave and in an apparently sold out 02 arena inside one round last month.

My first reaction was, why this had even happened. Haye, at 35, had already claimed he would be gone from the sport at 31. He still came back to beat Derek Chisora in an entertaining fight, but his chronic shoulder problems had apparently forced him into retirement, regardless if he wanted to fight on or not.

david-haye-dereck-chisora_3378522As De Mori was left unconscious in the ring, for the first time in a long time watching the sport, I felt uncomfortable at seeing someone in that condition. I’m sure De Mori was well paid, believed he could win and I applaud anyone at any level who has the guts to get into a ring. After three and a half years out, an easier fight for Haye was always sensible. But De Mori was so obviously over matched from even the most cursory glance at his record that what was to gain from a sporting perspective, was lost on me. It’s worth noting as well that Ray Leonard, had a three year ‘retirement’ before fighting all-time great Marvin Haggler, and he had only fought once in the previous five years. Floyd Mayweather also had a two year absence before beating the similarly talented Juan Manuel Marquez. So whilst I can’t begrudge Haye an easier fight on his return, it isn’t always the ‘done thing’ in the sport.

Haye has always carried power and that’s something, which rarely leaves a boxer, regardless of age and condition. But what made Haye so brilliant to watch was that power aligned with speed and explosiveness. Did that fight allow him to exhibit that? Not really, as De Mori shelled up and immediately allowed himself to be trapped against the ropes and in the corner.

joshua99_3215947Despite my reservations, his new trainer Shane McGuigan is an elite level operator and must truly believe that Haye still have the ability to challenge at the top end of the division. Domestic showdowns with Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury would be blockbuster events both financially and perhaps in the ring. And fights against more fringe name such as David Price and Dillian Whyte probably wouldn’t fail in generate a fair amount of interest either.

A fit and motivated Haye is a privilege to have in the division and I hope we see him back out again soon. My hope is however, that we see him in the ring against someone who can show the fans what he really has left in the tank.

As McGuigan ponders on his man’s chances against the man of the moment Anthony Joshua, he concludes; “I think it’s 100 per cent from our point of view that the Anthony Joshua fight will happen. When Joshua gets to that position though, will he be ready? Will he be able to deal with the lateral movement? Can he hit a moving target? He’s never hit a moving target, he’s never fought somebody who’s slipping and sliding. When David does that he comes back with big shots and he’s quick. It’s an interesting fight and I’m definitely backing my man to knock him out.”

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by Aroosa Munir
by Aroosa Munir

Leicester City’s dream campaign shows no signs of stopping. The Foxes sit at the number two spot of the Premier League (2 points off Arsenal), despite starting the season as one of the favourites to be relegated.

The Foxes incredible form has been the undisputed success story of the Premier League so far this season. But how has the club, only promoted to England’s elite division in 2014 after a 10-year absence, done it? “They will fall away eventually. It will never last.” This was and still is in some parts, the common view on Leicester City’s position as in the Premier League.

iHowever, branding their season as ‘pure luck’ is a bit unfair. For a start, leading goal scorer Jamie Vardy has struck 15 times in the league this term, the same tally as La Liga superstars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo combined until recently. There is no ‘luck’ in that.

Meanwhile, Foxes midfielder Riyad Mahrez (a bargain buy from French club Le Havre), has scored an incredible 13 times putting him ahead of Tottenham’s dynamic Harry Kane who has found the back of the net 11 times.

leicester-city-fc-directors-box-goal-celebrationIn addition to this, the decision to appoint the experienced Claudio Ranieri was questioned and even mocked. This was a manager who had just failed spectacularly with his first attempt at international management, losing four and drawing one of his five matches in charge of Greece, with the last these defeats coming at home to the Faroe Islands. Despite having taken charge of Chelsea, Valencia, Juventus, Napoli, Fiorentina, Atlético Madrid, Roma and Internazionale, he has just two domestic trophies and no top-flight league titles to his name. Leicester’s quality, team spirit and togetherness, forged by Pearson, has been further encouraged by his successor and is at the heart of the success story.

With all that said and done, Leicester City were the Premier League’s Christmas number one. Money may talk very loudly in the Premier League but it clearly doesn’t say everything. The ‘filthy rich’ clubs such as Chelsea and Manchester City respectively, are currently trailing behind the East Midland team.

Navigating obstacles ahead of them would surely bring a few more believers but there are some obvious concerns. Leicester have fielded just 21 different players in the league this season. Only struggling Swansea have deployed fewer and Ranieri plainly does not share his rivals’ capacity to freshen up the pack when the fixtures come thick and fast. Vardy and Mahrez started 26 and 25 Premier League games, respectively, last season; both are on course to be virtually ever-present this time around too. Will there come a point where they will burn out? Or ‘blip’? Who do Leicester turn to then?

Many questions are unanswered and many doubts are still in the back of people’s minds. There is still a fair degree of scepticism surrounded the Foxes’ blistering start to the season as many pundits firmly believed it wouldn’t last, but the results the players continue to achieve, show it was no flash in the pan. Impostors, pretenders, or bang on course for the most audacious title heist of the Premier League era? It is a question that nobody quite seems sure what to do with. In an age that fortifies us all with the tools for strident opinion forming, Leicester have disarmed everybody.

As Ranieri aptly sums up the situation, “Why can’t we continue to run, run, run? We are like Forrest Gump. Leicester is Forrest Gump. I give you the headline there.”

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by James Oddy

2015 was a magical year for British boxing. Newly crowned world champions and entertaining mouth-watering domestic fights, British boxers are enjoying a golden era. Here we look back at which boxing personalities rose to the pinnacle in 2015.

INTERNATIONAL BOXER OF THE YEAR – Tyson Fury
Tyson FuryLove him or loathe him, the Lancastrian giant shocked the world in late November by beating Wladimir Klitschko. Many felt Fury would get blown away; some felt he would be out-boxed by a long term world champion. Instead, Fury moved intelligently and made Wladimir look old in the process, catching him with considered counter shots. In a year where the sport has seen a passing of the guard, this was the most unexpected and all the more thrilling for it.
Runners ups; Roman Gonzalez, Floyd Mayweather Jr, Saul Alvarez

Nick BlackwellDOMESTIC BOXER OF THE YEAR – Nick Blackwell
Blackwell is proof that a defeat doesn’t have to mean the end for a young boxer. With no amateur experience outside of the world of unlicensed fighting, the Wiltshire man learnt on the job, gaining credit for pushing the likes of Billy Joe Saunders and Martin Murray hard despite not picking up the win. This year he picked up the British middleweight title against big hitting John Ryder, before beating talented and unbeaten Leeds based southpaw Damon Jones in an engaging fight. He rounded the year off with a challenging encounter with extremely late replacement Jack Arnfield, showing that he has a great ring IQ alongside a superb engine.
Runners ups: Sam Eggington, Anthony Joshua, Callum Smith.

Takashi Miura of Japan (L) defends against Francisco Vargas of Mexico (R) during their WBC super featherweight title fight on November 21, 2015 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. Vargas, knocked down in the fourth round for the first time in his career, went on dethrone Miura with a ninth round TKO. AFP PHOTO / JOHN GURZINSKI

FIGHT OF THE YEAR – Francisco Vargas TKO9 Takashi Miura
Perhaps not two house hold names, but this WBC featherweight clash was a brilliant mesh of styles. Vargas stalked Miura around the ring, unleashing blistering combinations. But the heavy handed Japanese champion stood his ground and unloaded huge shots. The pair were cut, hurt and knocked down, until Vargas found a second wind to pick up the win and the title.
Runners up; Matthysee Wpts Provodnkov, Glazoowki KO11 Marco Huck, Lea Sant Cuz WPts Abner Mares.

Ovil McKenziSURPRISE OF THE YEAR – Ovil McKenzie
The veteran cruiserweight carried on the momentum he acquired with a British title victory at the back end of 2014 into 2015. He defended his title twice, and then stepped in almost at the last moment to fight for the IBF world title against hometown man Victor Ramirez. McKenzie correctly nicknamed ‘The upsetter’ almost pulled off one of the great Brit abroad victories, leaving Argentina with a disputed split draw.
Runner up: Ryan Farrag, Sean Dodd

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With his mouth-watering clash with tough Pole, Mateusz Masternak, approaching quickly on the horizon, Liverpool cruiserweight, Tony Bellew is under no illusions that his world class opponent is likely to be his toughest foe since moving north a division following a decorated spell at 175lbs.

Tony-Bellew-Liverpool-cruiserweight-2014_3172054The vacant European title is at stake when the pair clash on this weekend’s Sky PPV offering headlined by heavyweight rivals Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte but many within the industry are certain that this clash of powerful punchers will steal the show. Bellew, along with trainer, Dave Coldwell, has left no stone unturned in preparation for Masternak and he’s in bullish mood ahead of his latest challenge.

“It’s the perfect opportunity to send a message out to all the leading cruiserweights,” buzzed Bellew. “Masternak has a daunting reputation for a reason and it’s because he knows how to have a fight. Barring Adonis Stevenson away in Canada, this is probably my toughest assignment to date but it’s going to be the fight where I leave a lasting impression and go home with the European title. Victory here puts me within touching distance of one of the world champions and with the way I’ve been feeling in camp then I think I’m more than ready to make that step now. I’m under no illusions about the task that’s ahead of me because Masternak always gives a good account of himself but this is a fight I simply won’t lose.”

PHOTO PIOTR GRZYBOWSKI/SE/EAST WARSZAWA. MATEUSZ MASTERNAK. BOKSER, SPORT, BOKS, WYWIAD W SUPER EXPRESSIE. WIECEJ ZDJEC NA HTTP://AGENCJA.SE.COM.PL. 27/03/2013.

Masternak’s cruiserweight slate is an impressive one with defeats either coming against elite opposition or bewildering judgement. Setbacks against Grigory Drozd and Youri Kalenga were competitive ones whilst a split decision loss to Johnny Muller in South Africa saw Masternak register two knockdowns. The Pole comes into this fight trying to recapture the title he held briefly in 2012 but Bellew is adamant that his opponent will go home empty handed.

“What he’s done in the division is worthy of respect but it always shows that he’s capable of losing by a variety of ways as he’s been outfought, outpointed and he’s also been stopped. He can be hurt and he can be outboxed and I fully believe that I’ve got the skills and power to do either to him. I’ve yet to lose since moving to cruiserweight and I’ve always said that I’d make an impact in the division and this is my chance to do so against a good opponent. I’m more than ready for anyone at this weight but the immediate focus is on Masternak. Once I’ve done a job on him then we can start looking at the bigger prizes.”

 

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