Victorious Islington fighter aims for Southern Area title shot

Charlie Rice (centre) flanked by manager Mickey Helliet (left) and trainer Barry O'Connell

Charlie Rice (centre) flanked by manager Mickey Helliet (left) and trainer Barry O'Connell - Credit: Archant

Charlie Rice’s trainer is targeting a Southern Area championship challenge after the Islington fighter collected the first title of his career.

Rice thoroughly dominated Slovakian opponent Lubos Priehradnik to win the International Masters bronze light-welterweight title in only his eighth professional contest at the Camden Centre, Kings Cross, on Friday.

And Barry O’Connell, who has been training Rice since Colin Wilson stepped down due to increased work commitments in the summer, feels the 21-year-old is capable of progressing a lot further.

“Charlie’s got a lot of potential,” O’Connell told the Gazette. “Some of the lads he’s been sparring with are world title class and he can hold his own and more.

“He’s been brilliant coming forward, maybe not so good on the back foot – but he’s been working on that and I think you could see he was creating angles.

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“He needed to get rounds in, but he could have done 12 rounds there, no problem – and he didn’t get too hot-headed, which at times he could have done.

“Charlie’s sat down with [manager] Mickey [Helliet] and made a plan. Hopefully another fight or two and then he’ll get a Southern Area title chance.

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“He’s a really good lad and I want to get him fighting for that Southern Area as soon as possible. He’s worked hard for it and the work he did with Colin has laid a lot of the foundations.”

Rice, who started out as an amateur with Times ABC, won his first six fights in the paid ranks, but suffered a first defeat against Danny Connor in July’s Prizefighter tournament.

Friday’s contest – his first outing since Prizefighter – was the Islington man’s debut over eight rounds, but he never looked in any difficulty as he claimed an 80-71 points success.

The experienced Priehradnik frequently forced his opponent onto the ropes, but Rice was nimble enough to get out of trouble and unload the more punishing shots.

A left hook that thudded into the Slovakian’s ribs set the tone in the opening round and another left to the head in the sixth prompted a stumble from Priehradnik that was scored as a knockdown by referee Ian John Lewis.

O’Connell added: “I’d like to thank Charlie’s sponsor, MJR Ltd – they’ve made it possible for him to work from 8am to midday and then come into the gym in the afternoons.

“It means we’re getting loads more time to practise and that’s what you need at this level.”

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