BY CHRIS MCNULTY
WILLIE McLaughlin is back on the World Series of Boxing (WSB) trail again – with the Illies Golden Gloves middleweight’s season getting underway again on Saturday, when his Italian Thunder team face the Germany Eagles.
The unbeaten 26-year old, who had five wins from five fights, was named as the 2012 Donegal senior boxer of the year last Saturday at the Donegal Boxing Board’s annual awards night in Burnfoot.
McLaughlin boxed in the welterweight division of the National Elite Senior Championships earlier this year, but is at middleweight for the WSB, in which he starred for the Dolce and Gabbana-sponsored Milano Thunder, who won the WSB and who have been rebranded as Italian Thunder for the 2012-13 season.
“I am giving away a lot of weight as I box at 69kg but I suppose it is the will I have to win that has got me this far,” McLaughlin says ahead of the beginning of the new season.
“The Thunder have a great program for all of us, tailor made for each individual and their weight programs have been a massive help. I also had top sparing with (Sergiy) Derevyanchenko.”
McLaughlin was a silver-medalist at the 2011 European Championships and at the 2009 World Championships. Last season, he was one of the stars of the Milano Thunder team in the WSB.
On the back of a successful Olympic Games, amateur boxing is in a good place right now – with the likes of Michael Conlon, Joe Ward, John Joe Nevin and David Oliver Joyce among the other Irish boxers signed up for the WSB.
And McLaughlin can’t wait to get cracking with the new campaign.
He said: “Last season was a tremendous experience. I had five fights and won the five of them.
“The first couple were very hard. I was getting used to fighting with no headguard and all the rest of it. That took a couple of contests just to get used to.
“I think the WSB is growing into a great competition because, when you look at all the teams, all the boxers involved, all are very strong, top-class boxers, Olympic medalists, boxers who have gained success at World and European levels.and there is no such thing as an easy contest.
“The fans, for something like €20 a ticket, get great value out of it. They know they’re seeing top-rated boxers, quality contests at each of the weights. Every event that I have been involved in has been huge, big crowds, great contests. The WSB can only go from strength-to-strength.
“It is massively popular in Italy. The WSB would be a lot bigger and popular with the fans in Italy than professional boxing would be and last season Milan attracted between 4,000 and 5,000 to every one of its home matches.”
McLaughlin is expected to contest the 2013 National Elite Championships at the National Stadium with the next few weeks on the WSB circuit giving him invaluable preparation.
He said: “Well, my goal would be for our team to be number one at the end of the season once again and to retain the WSB trophy. We want that second star on the team crest. Personally, I am very proud of my unbeaten record so I want to keep it intact and build on my momentum. We have a very tough group but we will be ready for them all.”
The WSB is a pro-style competition which allows the boxers to retain their amateur status and, most crucially, their Olympic eligibility.
The finals take place at a neutral venue at the end of May 2013.
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