With the League of Ireland leaders Sligo Rovers travelling to western Slovakia for their Europa League match against Spartak Trnava on Thursday and Sligo’s only current professional boxer, Stephen Reynolds, due to make his pro debut in Belfast on Saturday night it is a busy week of sport for the men from the Yeats County.Whilst the both sports generally have little crossover in skills they do in support and two of Rovers’ table topping squad, Danny Ventre and Gavin Peers, made a trip to Reynolds Gym in Ballinacarrow for some one-to-one coaching with the five time Irish amateur champion and according to ‘Block’ the duo could have a future in boxing should they reconsider their positions as footballer.
“I was having a bit of banter on Twitter with Danny and then Mr. Peers jumped in as well. It was just craic about wanting to fight each other but really they were just interested in trying out some technical boxing skills. Sure we couldn’t see either of them getting hurt at the moment, they are too valuable for the Rovers campaign in the League and Europe,” laughed Reynolds.
“Lots of footballers in England incorporate boxing into their training these days and it really helps with core strength and confidence.
“One thing about coaching people from another sport is that they learn very quickly, they are able to absorb what you are showing them quicker. Both lads were throwing punches fairly well after only a few minutes in the ring and obviously their fitness level is exceptional. Because of that you can do more with them,” explained ‘Block’ who faces dangerous Belfast-based Ugandan Moses Matovu in his first bout as a professional fighter this weekend.
Sligo’s tough tackling Scouse midfielder Danny Ventre, who hail from a family with a tradition of boxing in Liverpool enjoyed the experience and was left wanting more after this taste of the Queensberry Rules.
“It was good fun and we went through the basic skills of the sport,” gasped Ventre after taking his mitts off. “You need a different type of fitness and have to concentrate hard to do your own work and deal with the punches coming at you as well, but that’s a bit like someone coming in for a tackle. I really enjoyed it, it’s not something we are used to but it’s good to learn.
“We’ve done similar stuff pre-season when we just worked the pads with no skill, purely for fitness, which is different to this as Stephen teaches you how to box, the technique and fundamentals of the sport as well as the fitness.
“My Dad was an amateur back when he was a kid. He competing or the ABA amateur championships and had 69 fights, 60 of which were victories, or so he tells me, you never know,” joked the Sligo skipper.
Fellow Rovers player, combative centre-back, Gavin Peers harboured fistic ambitions as a lad so was delighted to avail of the expert tuition offered by Reynolds.
“I always wanted to do boxing as a kid, but never got the chance because of football and in school Gaelic was offered as opposed to boxing. There is boxing interest in my family as well, my cousin, Michael Conlon, is boxing for Ireland in the Olympics, so I’ll be looking out for him and hope he does well.“I have to say that was a cracking experience. It mixes it up from the usual training, it’s more explosive and requires a lot of concentration so you don’t get a smack on the way back. Danny and myself would love to come back and build on what we have learned. I just hope Stephen does the business in Belfast now, he is obviously in fantastic condition and deserves it,” added Peers.
Reynolds opponent for his debut at the Emerald Roadhouse in Belfast has been named as tough international fighter Moses Matovu who has a reputation of causing upsets against boxers starting out on their pro careers.
“To be honest it is a fight some people don’t think I should take. Usually no one bats an eyelid if you have a “blow-over” type opponent for your debut, but I’m 39 and haven’t the luxury of doing things the normal route.
“I have to get stuck in straight away and take on the Matovu’s of this world from the offing. I know all about his background and have seen a few videos of him. He’s wild, unorthodox, crafty and tries to knock you out with every punch so I am going to have to be 100% on my game from the first bell to the last,” acknowledged Reynolds.
“All the hard work is done now, I’ve had a great training camp, loads of help with sparring especially from my brother Alan and I think the venue it pretty much a sell out especially after Kiko Martinez was added to the bill so I just can’t wait to get into the ring now and show what I can do,” beamed the former amateur star.
Final remaining tickets for Stephen’s debut at the Emerald Roadhouse, Belfast on Saturday, July 21 range from €19 standing, €30 seated and €48 ringside. Return bus from Sligo for just €10.Tickets are available in Sligo from Barton Smith Sports, the Adelaide Casino and Ballinacarrow Boxing Club or in Belfast at Manny’s at 241 Antrim Road. Alternatively call 087 858 9369 or in the north call 075 35 267 641.
Follow Stephen on twitter at @BlockReynolds