WORK is underway to restore the British Lionhearts, the UK franchise in the World Series of Boxing. The WSB is a pro-style league run by AIBA, the governing body for Olympic boxing. A UK franchise featured in the third WSB season and it looks set to return just in time for the fifth, which begins in January. The draft for season five took place in Jeju, Korea on Wednesday (November 12) with the British team replacing the German franchise.
Dr. Ching-Kuo Wu, the president of AIBA, welcomed the move. “Once this is confirmed, from January then some WSB competitions will be happening [in the UK],” he told Boxing News. “We are very happy to immediately include [Britain] in today’s draft. [They] are going to have seven home games and seven away games [in the group stage] so that means seven international events happening either in London or somewhere [in Britain].” The Brits would be in the same group as Russia and the all-star Cuban team.
Expect GB boxers like Andrew Selby, Joe Joyce, Antony Fowler and the others on the Olympic programme to compete for the British franchise, although Italia Thunder plan to secure the services of Olympic silver medallist Fred Evans. Irish stars Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan are set to box for the Italian franchise as well.
To augment their squad the British Lionhearts selected foreign boxers in the draft; Abdoulaye Diane, Tadas Tamauskas and Ionut Jitaru at 91kgs; Abdel Ladjali, Oualid Beloura and Detelin Dalakliev at 60kgs; Joseph Goodhall at 91&kgs; Enrico La Cruz at 56kgs and Kevin De La Nieve at 52kgs.
Also in the draft the Polish team selected Ireland’s Stephen Donnelly and the Mexico Guerreros picked Irishmen Gary Sweeney and Dean Gardiner.
The World Series of Boxing is an increasingly important route for qualifying for the next Olympic Games. 17 places at Rio 2016 are available directly through the WSB ranking system and later on WSB boxers will also be able to enter an additional qualification tournament along with competitors from AIBA Pro Boxing, a new format launched this year.
Franchises from Puerto Rico, Morocco, China and Venezuela have been added to the WSB to take the number of World Series teams to 16 for the next season.