The Bull’s charged up for national semis

Heart of Portsmouth's reigning national champion, Ben Bendle, with coach Q Shillingford
Heart of Portsmouth's reigning national champion, Ben Bendle, with coach Q Shillingford

BEN BENDLE will be roared on by a partisan home crowd in his bid to make the England Youth Boxing Championship final today.

Heart of Portsmouth’s (HOP) reigning national champion steps up to 81kg to meet last year’s runner-up, Jack Bannister, for a spot in the last stage of the competition.

And the 17-year-old will launch his final bid on home soil, as the event comes to HOP’s home at Charter Sports Centre.

Bendle, nicknamed ‘The Bull’, is the last local club boxer standing in the competition, after Moneyfields’ Sid Williams and Golden Ring’s Jack Stringer bravely bowed out in the quarter-finals last weekend in Harlow.

The England international faces a tough challenge in the shape of Baker Street ABC’s Bannister.

But his coach, Q Shillingford, backed him to rise to the task of making a final return once again.

Shillingford said: ‘Ben won it last year and preparations have gone really well this time around.

‘He’s had very good sparring with the Royal Navy and our coaches, Colin Williams and Jason Evans, have taken him to the army.

‘We had a lot of clubs come to us for sparring and he is also working with Greg Bridet and Tom Johnson.

‘So he’s operated at a very good level and is ready to go.

‘Ben has also been doing a lot of work on strength and conditioning himself.

‘He has gone up a division. He is a thickset lad and is filling out nicely at the weight.

‘The hard work has been done now for him.

‘He is fit, sharp and ready.’

Despite his international credentials, Shillingford is under no illusions about the size of the task Bendle faces against Bannister.

He said: ‘Jack made the final last year, so this is going to be a tough one for Ben.

‘He took the champion the distance last year and has good experience.

‘But Ben has good experience himself.

‘He boxed for England before he joined the club and has boxed in the Tri-Nations since he’s been with us.

‘He knows what to expect at this stage of the competition, and will be prepared for what he faces.’

Shillingford spoke of his pride at HOP again attracting a prestigious national event to the city.

Some top-class boxers will be on display in the semis as the south’s finest emerging talent showcase their skills.

Shillingford believes the day will prove to be an exciting spectacle.

He said: ‘It’s massive for us to be holding the semi-finals of the England Boxing Youth Championships.

‘It’s a huge honour for Heart of Portsmouth and we feel we are representing Portsmouth, Hampshire and the Southern Counties in doing so.

‘It’s the second year we have staged the event, so people must have been pleased with how we hosted it last time. The proof is in the pudding.

‘There will be some very exciting bouts as the best of the South of England go toe-to-toe to see who goes through to the final.

‘I’m sure the local crowd will get behind the event – and especially get behind Ben.’

The England Boxing Youth Championships are hosted by Heart of Portsmouth at Charter Sports Centre today., Tickets cost £10 (adults) and £5 (under-16s). Doors open 11.30am. Boxing starts 12.30pm).