Sligo boxer Stephen ‘Block’ Reynolds is looking to get 2013 off to bang as he makes his third appearance in the pro ranks when he steps up to eight round level on the bumper ‘The Homecoming’ bill at the Fairways Hotel in Dundalk on Saturday, March 9.
In his opening year as a professional boxer the veteran earned a hard fought points win over Uganda’s Moses ‘The Black Mamba’ Matovu in Belfast, and last time out Reynolds floored Lithuanian tough-nut, Ruslan Bitarov, four times on route to a spectacular second round knockout victory which boosted his ranking in the Irish Cruiserweight division from 9th to 5th place over a period of just six months.
“It’s been an amazing time since my pro debut, it couldn’t have gone any better really,” admitted 39-year-old Reynolds, “My opening fight versus Matovu was a real eye opener to be honest. I knew the jump from amateur code to the pros was a big one and I learned on my debut not to underestimate these guys or it could be lights out.
“I knew what to expect when the Bitarov fight came around. We decided not to give him a second of peace, and to whip in the body shots from the first bell. Luckily my manager got some video of him from a contact in Europe and we knew that you could bash away at this guy forever and he wouldn’t take a backward step but that he didn’t cope well with an assault to the body.
“The plan worked to perfection, but fair play to Bitarov because he was game and really came to win. He could’ve easily quit after he went down from the first knockdown, but he kept getting up and coming at me. It was over quickly but I trained hard for that fight because it was a step up in class and a step up from the four round to six round level. I’ll have to work even harder again for this fight in Dundalk as its another step up to 8 rounds which leaves the door open for title shots then,” added the Ballinacarrow Boxing Club coach.
“It’s another challenge and if I win this fight I can stake a claim for a shot at that Irish title, which everyone knows is the reason that I returned to the ring. I’ll be a happy man if I can win that Irish title and defend it back in Sligo. It’s never been done before and is the stuff dreams are made of, but slowly and surely with the hard work we have been putting in and the support I have been getting at fights that dream is being made a reality,” said the five-time Irish amateur champ.
“The progress Stephen has made since turning pro has been remarkable,” said manager Leonard Gunning. “No one comes into a pro ring in better condition than Stephen and I know how hard he works to get himself in that shape. At 39 years of age he is in a unique position. We both know he hasn’t got another 10 or 15 years left in his career like regular boxers who turn professional, so his acceleration through the ranks is on fast forward.
“It makes exciting viewing for the droves of supporters that travel from Sligo to watch his fights, but difficult to manage because it is so unprecedented. They’re all very risky fights for Stephen, for example, the opponents he has faced in his first two fights are the level you would usually put a in with a guy that has had nine or ten contests. Stephen is always pushing for hard fights, so I have to go out and find them for him.
“We will announce his opponent in the next two weeks. We are in discussions to bring in either a Croatian cruiserweight or a big guy from Germany that is on a bit of a winning streak and knocked out his last two opponents. The main thing is to test Stephen, he’ll need good quality opposition if he is to be ready to challenge the top Irish guys,” said Gunning.
“This type of international experience will build ‘Block’ and if he comes through this one we’ll be knocking on the door for title fights. We’ve to get through a couple of Irish guys before we can earn the right take on Ian Tims for his belt. One of them is Declan Trainor, who tops the bill in Dundalk that Block is on. He is unbeaten and having his first fight since demolishing an Australian champion, so all the Reynolds fans in Dundalk will get a good look at what could be in store for him very soon.”
“Then we will be looking to bring the ‘Block Bandwagon’ back to Sligo for the first ever professional boxing show in the history of the county. We are in discussions with venues and a TV station and if all goes to plan we will have his homecoming this summer, but before that he has a big hurdle to get over on someone else’s ‘Homecoming’ and I promise it won’t be one to miss,” added his London-based manager.
The show, dubbed ‘The Homecoming’ features rising talent from across Ireland including no fewer than eight top quality unbeaten fighters including the joint-headliners in Ireland’s only female pro boxer Christina McMahon and Reynolds’ cruiserweight rival Declan Trainor, as well as the exciting pro debut of Irish amateur champion Philip Sutcliffe Jnr, Eddie Nesbitt, Irish boxing’s ‘Newcomer of the Year 2012’ James Tennyson and unbeaten prospects like Noel O’Brien, Daniel McShane and Matthew Wilton also bringing more quality to the show.
Tickets for Stephen’s bout at the Fairways Hotel, Dundalk on Saturday, range from €35 for unreserved seating and €50 for a ringside position. Return bus from Sligo for just €10.
Tickets are available in Sligo from Barton Smith Sports, the Adelaide Casino and Ballinacarrow Boxing Club. Alternatively call 087 858 9369 or visit www.greenjab.ie.