By Mark Wilson Smith
With the popularity of Maltese boxing going from strength to strength, it comes as no surprise that we will see another sell-out crowd at St Julian’s Bay Arena on Saturday.
In an event co-promoted by Stephen Vaughan Jr and Demis Tonna, the card will feature Christian ‘Coqqos’ Schembri against Elton Azzopardi – the eagerly anticipated rematch for the vacant Maltese Middleweight title.
The pair first locked horns back in February of this year, which resulted in a disputed draw.
The three judges at ringside scored the bout 96-95 in favour of Schembri; 97-94 in favour of Azzopardi; and the third judge scored 95-95 even. Unsurprisingly, both boxers felt they had done enough to edge it in their favour.
Since that night, Schembri went on to record another victory in July, while Azzopardi has had less success racking up another draw and one defeat.
Clearly, momentum is with Schembri, but he must also be considered the favourite due to his greater experience and training camps with renowned global coaches.
“I’m looking forward to the rematch,” Schembri said.
“Last time out, it was a close fight between both of us, and it could have gone either way. I’m sure that he will come even more prepared for the rematch, but I worked very hard, and I’m more than confident of winning in a clear fashion.”
Marc James, the president of the Malta Boxing Association who will be sanctioning the event, said: “Both fighters have shown exceptional skill and determination in their previous encounter, and this rematch promises to be a pinnacle moment in Maltese professional boxing. We extend our best wishes to both Christian and Elton as they step into the ring once again.
‘’Competing for the National Professional Boxing Championship is a significant achievement, opening doors for the winner to embark on their international journey and climb the major international rankings.
‘’For the winner, the next step will be the WBC Mediterranean Championship, presenting an exciting opportunity to showcase their talent on a broader stage. This bout is not just a battle for a title; it’s a crucial step towards greater recognition in the global boxing community.’’
In the headline event, Pieta’s Haithem Laamouz will contest the vacant Commonwealth Silver Lightweight title against Britain’s Keanen Wainwright.
Laamouz will already have one eye on the title, as he has fought at a much higher level than Wainwright while contesting WBC Mediterranean and EBU belts.
Wainwright, for his part, will be looking to utilise his southpaw stance to nullify Laamouz’s greater experience.
Elsewhere on the packed card, we will see Malta’s unbeaten prospect Lydon Chircop looking to make it seven wins in a row as he challenges Britain’s Michael Walton.
Local favourite Steve Martin makes the second appearance of his comeback that started in July. He will be fighting Brazil’s Dewis Rogerio Santos de Oliveira Jr. over eight rounds in a Welterweight contest.
As an added bonus, the event will also feature the Swedish Super Middleweight Champion Niclas Elfstedt. Elfstedt has been based in Malta for several years and has built up quite a large following due to his exciting fighting style.
After fighting in Canada last time out, he returns ‘home’ to face Liverpool’s James McCarthy over six rounds.
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