Boxing trio set to return to ring

Luke Blackledge

Luke Blackledge

First published in Sport

STIRK House boxers Luke Blackledge, Haidher Riaz and Qasim Niaz have been given dates for their return to action.

Niaz will fight a yet to be confirmed opponent in Blackpool on March 29, while Riaz will also make his third appearance as a professional in Colne on April 11.

The bill will also see Blackledge return following his first round knockout defeat to Rocky Fielding, when he challenged for the Commonwealth super middleweight title at Manchester’s Phones 4u Arena in November.

Blackledge’s trainer Kevin Maree admits that the 23-year-old may not have been ready for that fight but is certain the Accrington boxer will be victorious at that level in the future.

“It is about rebuilding but it’s not a situation where someone has been outclassed and you can look at all the gaps,” Maree said.

“It was a few seconds and there’s not much you can really analyse, he just got caught by a freak shot behind the ear. I don’t think I’ve seen that before, but it happened.

“He’s only 23 which is very young. It will be when he’s about 25 when he gets his man strength.

“Maybe we did rush it and it was too soon for Luke, so we’ll take a step back and learn from that.

“But he will be back at that level again and I’ll have no worries at all when he is.

“George Groves has moved and James DeGale has an eliminator for the world title so you can forget about those two at British level.

“Paul Smith is going to fight once more for the British and then move on, so it leaves Rocky Fielding, Frank Buglioni and Luke as the next level.

“It could be an interesting couple of years.”

Maree also manages Yassine El Maachi, the former Prizefighter winner who has been out of action for two-and-a-half years after damaging his knee bizarrely chasing a squirrel up a tree.

There had been hopes that El Maachi could return before the end of 2013 but that comeback has been put back once more.

“He came to training and I wasn’t happy with where he was with his knee,” Maree admitted. “I don’t want him back in the ring until his knee is right.”

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