Local boys do the business as Italia defeat Britain (4-1)


There was an unbelievable atmosphere at the packed Palamaggiò in Caserta as Dolce & Gabbana Italia Thunder battled the British Lionhearts in the World Series Boxing (WSB) Group B. Domenico Valentino, Vincenzo Mangiacapre and Clemente Russo were as predicted the stars of the show as they each recorded victories to give their team that all important win.

The first bout of the evening saw fledgling Italian talent Riccardo D’Andrea lock horns with the unbeaten Lionhearts Bantamweight (50-54kg) Sean McGoldrick. It was very evenly matched early on; however the accuracy of the 21-year-old Brit gave him the edge in the first. The two were letting fly from all angles as the crowd cheered on but once again it was McGoldrick who was connecting with the cleaner shots as he also claimed the second. Roused by the vocal supporters, the Italian southpaw found success with some good combinations in the third to claw his way back into the contest. It was fantastic to watch with the two really going for it. It was however the more measured approach of McGoldrick which made the difference in the latter stages as he triumphed for a third time this season to give the visitors the lead in the tie.
In the Lightweight (57-61kg) bout, it was a repeat of the London 2012 Olympic Games round of 16 with Thunder poster-boy and local hero Valentino battling tall Scottish southpaw Josh Taylor. The 28-year-old tattooed 2009 AIBA World Champion from Italy looked assured early on, moving well and using the jab to good effect before unloading some hard one-two combinations on his way to claiming the first round. Valentino’s experience and ring savvy saw him edge a frenetic second before his superior speed had him once again dominant in the third. Taylor, who had played his part in a gripping contest up until then, upped his intensity in the fourth and connected with some good shots to win that round. The Italian though came back strong to finish with a final flurry and record his season win of the season.

The Thunder’s 2011 WSB Individual Light Heavyweight (80-85kg) Champion Abdelhafid Benchabla from Algeria was then pitted against the Lionhearts’ outstanding talent Joe Ward in one of the stand-out fight of this match with the bout living up to its billing. The 19-year-old Irish European Champion struggled with the speed and movement of his rival in the first two rounds as Benchabla found his old swagger. It made for compulsive viewing as the two exchanged some punishing shots in the third, which in the end belonged to Ward. A scrappy fourth then saw Benchabla connect more cleanly to edge further ahead on the judges’ scorecards. In the end, it was the Algerian’s better quality of punches which made the difference as he inflicted a first career WSB defeat on the promising Ward to give Italia the advantage for the first time in the match.

24-year-old orthodox Mangiacapre, a bronze medallist at the London 2012 Olympic Games, quickly established his dominance in his Middleweight (68-73kg) showdown with the Lionhearts’ Estonian bull Kaupo Arro. The quick and elusive Italian had a hard time containing the onrushing Arro and had to rely on his quality counter-punches to claim rounds one and two. Arro continued to move forward but was being picked off by some sublime combinations as Mangiacapre’s superior skills made the difference. The Italian guaranteeing the overall victory for his team with the second success of his debut season in the competition.

Flamboyant 30-year-old Italia Team Captain Russo, sporting bright yellow shoes, had to work hard to get past the imposing reach of giant Tongan Uaine Fain the night’s final contest at Heavyweight (+91kg). Russo though was clinical with his punches, taking his time to pick the right ones, but when he did, they were the correct ones as time again he found his target when it mattered, claiming the first two rounds with panache. The 23-year-old Tongan, who had tasted defeat for the first time in WSB against Olympic Champion Oleksandr Usyk in week five, continued to look for that opening but the superior speed of Russo told as the Italian landed some good shots on the counter to edge further ahead on the judges’ scorecards. The clever Italian orthodox’s trademark overhead right saw him rock Fa several times and although the Tongan stood firm, he could not prevent Russo from extending his impressive WSB career record to 17-0.

The British Lionhearts are back at the iconic York Hall in London on Thursday 7 February to face Group B table-toppers Astana Arlans Kazkhstan whilst Italia’s next fixture is a trip to the Acco International Exhibition Center in Kiev to battle the Ukraine Otamans