World Series of Boxing 2015: Anthony Fowler cut raises further questions on headgear as British Lionhearts triumph


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The Independent Online

The scorecards came to the aid of Anthony Fowler after an abrupt end to his first outing of the year. The 2014 commonwealth Middleweight champion was ahead on all three judges score cards in his World Series Boxing bout with Zhou Di of the China Dragons, when a clash of heads opened a gaping cut on the forehead of the Liverpudlian. "Can you imagine if that happened in the first round of the Commonwealths? I'd be out of the competition, so it does make you wonder," said Fowler, who was also forced out of his semi final at the 2013 World Championships through injury.

With the new amateur rules including a 10 point must system and no headgear, concerns were raised during the Commonwealth Games after a number of competitors were forced to withdraw early with cuts. Dave Alloway, podium coach at GB Boxing, said: "The rules are the rules, AIBA made the decision that there would be no headgear, so we go with their decision. That's how it will be at the Olympics and so we'll prepare the lads in the best way possible."

York Hall was the venue for the Lionhearts triumphant return to The WSB - a full season was missed last year for financial reasons - as a new wave of Olympic boxing hopefuls showed their hands after a successful Summer in Glasgow. The GB trio of Fowler, Qais Ashfaq and Sam Maxwell all secured wins in a 3-2 victory against the China Dragons.

Ashley Williams, who was on the losing end of his debut encounter against He Junjun, still believes the competition will bring improvements to the team. "These are all learning curves, moving us in the right direction. Rob McCracken (Performance director at GB Boxing) knows what he's doing, we trust in him and he'll move us along so that it all comes together when the time is right."

Sam Maxwell, who secured bronze in Glasgow, was a regular feature in the inaugural Lionhearts season in 2012/13. Speaking of facing double Olympic and WBO world featherweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko twice in the competition, Maxwell said: "It was like my claim to fame. When they first told me I was being thrown in with him, I couldn't quite believe it. I was incredibly nervous, but it did wonders for me as a boxer. I've come on leaps and bounds."

The Hackney born Liverpudlian established a laser jab in his opening two rounds against Sairike Tuoliaowutayi, growing in confidence as the fight progressed. "Physically I feel much stronger this year, and I've improved so much technically since the last WSB competition." As much was evident in the later rounds, with Maxwell landing powerful combinations and looking for a late stoppage. "The crowd were cheering me on, and I did try to get my opponent out of there, but he was durable. Next time I'm confident of a stoppage."

Victory was not quite so comfortable for 21 year old Qais Ashfaq, who won a narrow split decision over Diao Jianhao. It marked the end of a tough week for the Commonwealth Silver medalist. "I lost my grandma just a few days has been a really difficult week and to be honest as felt quite emotional in there. I didn't box to the gameplan at times, but I'm young, I'm learning."

The British Lionhearts were overall winners 3-2 and next travel to Kiev to face the Ukraine Ottomans on the 23rd Jan.

The next home fixture is set for Thursday 5th of February, with York Hall provisionally announced as the venue.