National glory ‘would be like Pompey’s Cup win’

Heart of Portsmouth boxer Robbie Matthews

Heart of Portsmouth boxer Robbie Matthews

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Heart of Portsmouth’s deadly duo have been told to seize the moment on their date with destiny.

And their trainer has insisted winning the ABA Elite Championships would be on a par with Pompey lifting the FA Cup again.

Robbie Matthews and Greg Bridet step into the ring in London tonight in search of amateur boxing’s holy grail.

The pair have delivered a string of outstanding displays to make it to the last stage of the prestigious competition at York Hall in Bethnal Green.

And now they are primed for their chance to grab a national title and deliver glory for themselves and the area.

HOP captain Matthews goes in with Wellington’s Josh Leather at 60kg in the televised finals.

And then News Sports Awards sportsman of the year runner-up Bridet takes on Corby’s Simon Barclay at 91kg.

HOP head coach Q Shillingford admits both men face tough finals – as would be expected when they reach such a level.

But he knows they are ready to deliver, and victory would prove to be a huge coup for both them and boxing in this region.

Shillingford said: ‘The boys are strong, fit, focused and ready to rock and roll. They are in the best possible shape and are mentally and physically prepared.

‘They are in with opponents who have national and GB titles.

‘This is like the FA Cup for Pompey. We want to deliver for the city.

‘It would be great to think there are people watching at home and willing the lads on.

‘They want to deliver for themselves – and for the area.

‘You don’t get to this stage without talent and hard work.

‘So we know that there is going to be tough tests for them both.

‘But both boys have come on so much.

‘When Robbie came to me, I remember him saying he’d like to win a Hampshire or Southern Counties title. Look at him now!

‘Greg has come from nothing.

‘It was always obvious he had talent but he has come through some hard times.

‘He’s always been kept engaged, though, and he is now getting his rewards.

‘They have both come a long way, that’s for sure.

‘Through hard training and sparring their confidence has grown.

‘Robbie’s kept the momentum going from getting to the semi-finals last year and Greg from winning the novices, too.

‘Now it’s about them both going out there and giving everything they can. We know they will.’

As well as the prestige of winning an ABA crown, there will be an extra focus on this year’s finals as they take place in Olympic year in the host city.

The ABA finals have traditionally produced champions who have gone on to become Olympians.

And tonight’s winners will get the chance to take on boxers in the Olympic programme at the GB Championships in May.

Shillingford said: ‘There’s an extra edge to the finals being held at the home of the Olympics for the first time since 1948.

‘The winners will get the chance to take on the England squad next month. That’s a good opportunity to test yourselves against the best.

‘There’s no doubt at all that we want to be a part of that and want in.’

The ABA Championships is sold out tonight but will be broadcast live on BoxNationTV on Sky channel 456 or Virgin 546.

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