Tony Jeffries and Michael Banbulaweigh in for tonights fight

Sunderland favorite Tony Jeffries, the 2008 Beijing Olympic bronze medalist, looks to progress his fledgling career when he takes on Tony Oakey conqueror Michael Banbula at the Rainton Meadows Arena in Houghton-le-Spring tonight.

The fight takes place on the undercard of Stuart Hall’s first defence of his British bantamweight title. The 25-year-old Jeffries who trains in Manchester has seen a massive gulf in class in most of his professional fights so far, which has limited him to just 19 rounds in seven professional contests, but tonight against Banbula he steps up to eight rounds for the first time and relishes the chance to now start testing himself at an higher level.

“It’s a massive step,” he said. “It’s only a year-and-a-half ago I was fighting four two-minute rounds, now I’m boxing eight three-minute rounds. It’ll be great.”

Even in sparring Jeffries had not boxed for more than eight rounds before this month, so he has been working hard on his fitness in the build-up to tonight’s bout.

A new-look regime has seen him dragging weights on sledges, flipping massive tyres and doing pull-ups with shot putts to build the extra stamina needed.

But just as important after knocking Matt Hainy down three times in a previous performance which drew criticism from promoter Frank Maloney, Jeffries is looking to show some patience.

Surrey based Pole Michael Banbula has lost 25 of his 38 fights, yet ended the career of former world champion Tony Oakey in his last fight and is a live opponent to be taken seriously at this stage of Jeffries career, and the Sunderland man is not taking anything for granted.

“His record’s not very good. His record’s terrible really,” Jeffries told BBC Newcastle.

“On paper, you think I should bash him but he has boxed top level lads. He’s won his last three fights as well.”

After becoming Wearside’s first Olympic medallist, taking bronze in Beijing in 2008, Jeffries is forging a reputation in the professional ranks. He is undefeated in six professional bouts.

“Banbula beat Oakey in his last fight who was an ex world champion and he beat him over 10 rounds so he’s looking to do the same with me,”

“Titles are 12 rounds, or you can fight for an English title for 10 rounds – so it’s just another step up,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be tough because I’ve gone from fighting four two-minute rounds as an amateur to fighting eight three-minute rounds as a professional but it’s going to be a good challenge for me.”

His training has been structured to deal with the extra rounds.

“You have to train more and you have to train for longer,” he said. “Before, I’d do four or six rounds on the pads and now it’s eight or 10.

“The same with sparring – I have to spar for longer but it’s all part of the learning process of stepping up bit-by-bit.” 

Promoter Frank Maloney said: “This is all part of Tony’s learning and if he keeps progressing he could have an international ten rounder later this year or even his first title bout.

“Banbula is from a winning stable and although he win over Oakey was hardly noticed, beating Tony will put him on the map.

“I know Tony has only had seven fights, but I have no worries about putting him an eight rounder. If you’re good enough, you’re ready.”

Top of the bill is Stuey’s Hall (8-0-1) who makes the first defence of his British bantamweight title against Martin Power (21-5) in a rematch.

The pair fought a torrid non-title war last September when Hall stopped the former champion in the eighth round,

Promoter Frank Maloney is ending the season with a bumper bill, and a second title fight sees another Londoner Matthew Marsh face Scot Kris Hughes for the vacant Commonwealth super-bantamweight title.

In a third title fight, Nigel Wright (21-6) who conquered former world champion Alex Arthur in his last battle contests the vacant English light-welterweight crown against Wolverhampton’s Dean Harrison (16-3).

Tickets for the big night of action, price £30 and £70 are available from 0871 226 1508 or
British Boxers Prediction? Clear unanimous points win for Jeffries .

Chris Maylett reporting for British Boxers

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