Olympic gold medallist Anthony Joshua features in a huge night of championship boxing at the Cardiff Motorpoint Arena tomorrow.
Welshman Lee Selby leads the bill against Rendall Munroe in a bout for the vacant European and British featherweight championship. The night, labelled “Reloaded”, is designed to put Welsh boxing back on the world stage.
Selby is excited by the prospect of big-time boxing returning to Wales: “I think it’s been a long time coming, not just as a fighter but as a boxing fan myself, this is what we need in Wales,” he said.
The 26-year-old hasn’t fought in Wales since May 2012. Despite this he has continued an impressive record with 17 wins from 18 fights, and will go into tomorrow’s encounter full of confidence.
He is hopeful of gaining recognition on the world stage this year and said it is a dream come true to fight live on television. The fight will take place in front of a capacity crowd of nearly 5,000.
Veteran Munroe is a former world title challenger himself. The southpaw from Leicester retired briefly before returning to the sport after only four months.
He is certain he can provide Selby with a stern test: “I’m going to go out there February the first, do what I’m good at and take the belt home, and then let’s get onto another big thing,” he said.
There is also big excitement around the all Welsh clash between Gavin Rees and Gary Buckland, who are fighting in an eliminator for a shot at the British lightweight title.
Gavin ‘The Rock’ Rees has heightened interest around the bout by claiming defeat would signal the end his career.
He said: ”It’s all on the line for me, if I lose it’s curtains.”
The 33-year-old has an impressive career record with 37 victories from 41 encounters. But in 2013 he lost both of his two fights and was plagued by injury.
Rees is well aware of the challenge he faces.
“We are friends outside the ring but we can put that aside for a couple of weeks now and it’ll be a great fight,” he said.
Buckland is respectful of his friend’s talents: “What a show to be on now, especially against Gavin Rees so I jumped at the chance, he’s a great champion,” he said.
Doubtless all pleasantries will be forgotten tomorrow evening.
Heavyweight gold medal winner Anthony Joshua faces Welshman Dorian Darch. Joshua had to pull out of the pair’s scheduled fight in London last December with a nerve injury.
He said: “I’ve got a lot to prove you know, I’m coming in like the contender and I just want to give it my best.”
Sports promoter Eddie Hearn has organised the event, and gave fresh hope to Welsh boxing: “I want to thank every-one in Wales for getting behind this show, we’ve got plans to come here again and again,” he said.
Doors open at 5.30pm and a small amount of tickets are still available. Prices start from £30 and can be purchased from www.livenation.co.uk. VIP packages are £120 from www.matchroomboxing.com.
Yesterday’s press conference at Cardiff City Hall