After suffering a heavy loss in their last match at home and as a result finding themselves out of the play-off qualification places, German Eagles know that they must get a result when Dolce & Gabbana Italia Thunder come to the EWS Arena Goppingen this Friday 18 January (20:00 local time). For this World Series of Boxing (WSB) Group B encounter, the German outfit have included in their line-up Veaceslav Gojan, Stefan Härtel and powerhouse Erik Pfeifer in order to counter the threat posed by the top class opposition.
Former Italia Thunder Bantamweight (50-54kg) and now with the Eagles, Gojan, who defeated former teammate Vincenzo Picardi in his first outing this season, will once again be pitted against his former employers when he faces 29-year-old Italian Jahyn Vittorio Parrinello in the opening contest of the night. The Moldovan, a 2008 Olympic bronze medallist, will have to get passed the long reach of his opponent if he wants to claim victory in a contest that is definitely well balanced with both boxers having real pedigree.
The Lightweight (57-61kg) showdown will see the Eagles’ Kastriot Sopa pitted against Serbian sensation Branimir Stankovic in what promises to another cracking contest between two classy operators. Sopa impressed on his debut, defeating Eric Fowler in style, but Stankovic will represent a much tougher challenge for the 20-year-old German. The Serbian underperformed in his last appearance so will be keen to set things right. Sopa will have to raise his game in this one.
Germany’s Härtel, a quarter-finalist at the London 2012 Olympic Games, will then lock horns with steely Irishman William McLaughlin at Middleweight (68-73kg). The 24-year-old orthodox German had impressed in his first two WSB outings last season but then seemed to run out of steam in the latter part of the campaign, so he will surely be going all-out for victory in this one. McLaughlin tasted defeat for the very first time in the competition last time out, losing to tough Ukrainian Dmytro Mytrofanov, and will view this opportunity against Härtel as a chance to get back on track. This is one to really look forward to.
22-year-old Satula Abdulai, a 2008 Youth World Championships bronze medallist in 2008, will make his second appearance for the German Eagles in the Light Heavyweight (80-85kg) contest when he faces the Thunder’s 33 year-old Lithuanian veteran Vitalijus Subacius. Abdulai did not convince on his WSB debut, losing heavily to the Lionhearts’ Joe Ward. But it could be due to the fact that he was a late replacement and was probably not prepared mentally. Subacius, on the other hand, is an experienced campaigner, having competed at several World Championships, so it promises to be an interesting spectacle.
Closing the night’s show, powerful unbeaten German Pfeifer, who has delighted with his quality performances this season, faces fledgling French Heavyweight (91+kg) star Tony Yoka, one of the Thunder’s summer recruits. This is a mouth-watering match-up between two big performers. 2011 AIBA World Championships bronze medallist Pfeifer will be slight favourite as a result of his fine form this season and because he will be taking to the ring on home turf. For 2010 Youth Olympic Games gold medallist Yoka, this is an opportunity to upset the odds and re-affirm his credentials after a season away from the competition.
On his new team, Yoka told WSB, “I am delighted to have linked up with the Thunder; the team is perfect for me. I get on well with all the other boxers, the coaches and the managers, I could not be happier”. On the third instalment of the competition, he declared, “Season three is so much tougher with so many London Olympians in the mix. All teams are dangerous, which is fantastic for the fans”. On the prospect of facing Pfeifer, he told us, “I like challenging fights. I am 20 years old now and more mature than I was in season one. I want to fight the big guys and prove to everybody that I can make it to the very top. It can only be good for me to box the best fighters out there”.
Pfeifer was looking forward to the match, stating, “We lost against Kazakhstan so we need the result this Friday. We have been doubling up our efforts in training to be prepared for the visit of Italia”. On Yoka, he added, “I know him well, he is very good technically, so I will need to be at my very best to win”.
Germany need the win here or their chances of quarter-final qualification will look bleak. Italia are now in a three way battle for second place in Group B. Tensions will be high that is guaranteed.