NATHAN HEANEY WILL rematch Jack Flatley with the vacant WBA Continental middleweight title at stake and Andrew Cain will defend his WBC International Silver super bantamweight title against Ionut Baluta when Queensberry make a return to the Telford International Centre on Saturday March 25, live on BT Sport.

Stoke hero Heaney (16-0, 6 KOs) and Bolton man Flatley (20-3-1, 4) shared five rounds of action at the AO Arena in Manchester back in September of last year on the undercard of the Joe Joyce-Joseph Parker heavyweight collision.

What appeared to be a close run affair was aborted in the fifth round on the advice of the doctor following a head clash that left Heaney with a severe cut above his right eye. The fight went to the scorecards and Heaney was judged to have been ahead by all three judges.

Liverpool KO-artist Cain (10-0, 9) won his belt via a first-round stoppage of Pablo Ariel Gomez in Telford last April before defending at York Hall against Luis Moreno with the same outcome. A shoulder injury ruled the 26-year-old out of November action but he is set to go again against his toughest opponent to date in Baluta (15-4, 4), the Romanian based in Bushey.

A winner over Irish world champion and Olympian, TJ Doheny and David Oliver Joyce respectively, Baluta went on to fight a close run thing with Michael Conlan before winning the WBC International title by defeating Brad Foster in May of last year.

He then challenged for the vacant European title against Liam Davies in November, with the Telford man prevailing over 12 rounds.

The night that will also see the return of former European super bantamweight champion Jason Cunningham (31-7, 7) to the ring.

“I am really looking forward to it and I suppose it will be dubbed ‘unfinished business’,” said the 33-year-old Hitman Heaney. “There are questions that need answers, with them thinking they were going to beat me in the last fight and me believing the complete opposite.

“I am training hard and looking forward to being back in Telford with a great crowd,” added Heaney, who explained that his apparent unwillingness over the prospect of a rematch on social media in the days after the original fight was due to a feeling of being railroaded by Flatley’s team.

“No, that is not the case. Once people try to force my hand into doing something I immediately think I want nothing to do with them. It was his second and others popping up saying things and, for me, once that happens, I have zero interest in people.

“But, after speaking to George (Warren) it is an interesting fight and when it is on our terms rather than theirs, that is when I become interested. When people try to force it, it doesn’t interest me at all, but now I am right up for it.”

Former English super welterweight champion and European title challenger Flatley, added: “I’m made up and this fight is what I wanted after how it ended last time. I felt like I was getting into the fight, and it ended like it did, so I am buzzing it has been made again.

“Being honest, it was close, and I thought it was 50-50 when it got stopped. I’m not saying I was in front, but they had him winning every round.

“I didn’t think this fight was going to happen again and I don’t think, deep down, Nathan really wants it. He pretty much said on social media that he wasn’t going to fight me, so I am quite surprised, but made up it is happening.

“I don’t know why he has changed his mind and I feel like he might have been pushed into it, or he might have felt pressured by what’s gone on social media and stuff. I don’t know the reason, but I don’t really believe he fully wants to have the fight.

“I think there could probably be an easier option than me, although I’m not saying I’m a world-beater. I want to beat Nathan and then possibly be looking for a shot at the British title after that.”

The 33-year-old Cunningham’s winning run at the weight was ended by Zolani Tete at Wembley in July of last year and Cunningham now gets back on the title trail with a fight for the vacant WBO Intercontinental super bantamweight championship.

Cunningham was originally set to attempt to reclaim his European title from Liam Davies, but injury to the Telford man means the fight is now subject to delay.

Also on the card, Raven Chapman (5-0, 2) will make a first defence of the WBC International featherweight title she won by defeating Jorgelina Guanini in Manchester back in September. The Omen will take on the Czech Lucie Sedlackova (15-1-1, 6) in Telford.

Heavyweight star of the future Moses Itauma will have his second professional fight over four rounds, while Liverpool super bantam Brad Strand (9-0, 3) will hit double figures as a pro with an eight-round assignment.

“Settling the score with Jack Flatley is the right fight for Nathan Heaney and I think we can expect fireworks on the night,” said promoter Frank Warren. “When you have an unsatisfactory ending for both parties in an entertaining fight it is always best to do a rematch in the hope of a conclusive finish.

“Jack’s and his team will fancy the job, while Nathan needs to maintain his winning streak in order to realise his dream of fighting for a major title at Stoke City FC. This fight will deliver the goods and I am looking forward to the atmosphere created by the best crowd in boxing.

“I think we have got a humdinger of a fight in prospect when Andrew Cain takes on Ionut Baluta. Andrew comes in off two spectacular first round stoppages and if he can stop Baluta it will send shockwaves across the division. I am also excited to see Andrew’s teammate Brad Strand move towards title contention in what will be his 10th fight as a pro.

“Unfortunately, Jason Cunningham’s attempt to regain the European title is delayed due to injury to Liam Davies, but Jason gets the opportunity to put himself firmly back in the mix with a fight for the WBA Continental super bantamweight title.

“Barring any mishaps or injuries on January 28, the fans in Telford will also be treated to seeing the second professional fight of future heavyweight champion Moses Itauma.”

Midlands Area welterweight champion Owen Cooper (7-0, 2) from Worcester will be in eight-round action, Telford super lightweight Macaulay Owen (5-0, 1) will fight over six.

While Natty Ngwenya (1-0) makes his Queensberry bow in a four-rounder, Ilkeston super welterweight Jimmy Smith will make his professional debut over four rounds.
Tickets for Heaney vs Flatley and Cain vs Baluta at the Telford International Centre on Saturday March 25 go on sale at 11am on Tuesday January 31 available from Ticketmaster.co.uk.
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HUGELY POPULAR STOKE middleweight Nathan Heaney has signed a promotional agreement with Frank Warren and Queensberry Promotions.

Known as ‘Hitman’, the 10-0 Heaney fought on a Queensberry show – and delivered an impressive performance – back in November at Arena, Birmingham where he overcame Nelson Altamirano via a fifth round stoppage.

His most recent encounter, shortly before lockdown in mid-March, saw him defeat Christian Schembri to claim the vacant IBO Continental super middleweight title on his home patch of the Kings Hall in Stoke.

In June 2019, the now 31-year-old won the vacant Midlands Area belt on points after edging Tom Stokes over 10 rounds.

Heaney’s public profile has been notably increased in recent months by the social media release of his ring entrances in front of his passionate Stoke fans bellowing out the Tom Jones 1968 hit ‘Delilah’.

The ring walk and raucous atmosphere has captured the imagination and Heaney hopes his exploits result in major TV shows finding their way to his home town now he is under the promotional navigation of Frank Warren.

“It is like a childhood or young adult’s dream for me,” said the lifelong Stoke City supporter.

“When I was a young amateur years ago and you had the dream of winning an ABA title and that sort of stuff, the whole idea behind it was so you could get signed by Frank Warren in the end.

“That was my goal all the way through. So it is like a dream come true for me to be signed by Frank Warren. He has always been the top dog and there is no-one else like him, so this is a dream for me.

“It is a strange one because I know Frank normally signs young fighters but, while I am 31, I am a young 31 and was a late developer as well growing up. I think that is why the seniors were always tough for me in the early part of my amateur days, just because I didn’t have that man-strength.

“I genuinely now feel like I am a 24-year-old and have, one hundred per cent, got some good years left in me,” he added, before suggesting his social media stardom can only help in propelling him to the next level.

“The video that went viral of me recently means people across the country recognise my name a little bit more, but I have also been performing well and I won the Midlands Area title against a good kid, while being matched really well.

“So while I’ve got the entrance and all my supporters, luckily I can fight as well. It would be horrible to have all this support and not be able to back it up in the ring.

“I think they can really do something with my crowd because I believe the occasions to be amongst the most exciting in the UK. They don’t stop singing all the way through, they are loyal as anything and I really believe Frank Warren and Queensberry can build something around my support – I really do.

“I will wait to see what the plans for me are in terms of what titles to go for and who they want me fighting. Be it Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool – I know I will take a lot of people with me.

“While plans are, indeed, being drawn up down promotional corridors, Heaney himself has recently become something of a target for fellow 160-pounders with several call-outs coming via social media channels.

“It’s funny because at first I thought they were just calling for me because they thought they could beat me, but then I realised. There is a lad down south – I don’t want to mention his name – who keeps mentioning me and I know why he’s doing it.

“When you mention the Stoke lad they know they will sell loads more tickets. It is like using my name and my supporters to basically jump start their careers, whereas I had to put the graft in and build up my following.

“They are just trying to jump on the train. If they had half a football backing and their supporters knew they were fighting a lad from Stoke, they would sell hundreds more tickets.

“I replied saying ‘pay your dues to the professional game, win some ranking points and then I will happily sort you out. Until then stop talking about me because my missus is getting jealous!

“I’ve got a few fighters wanting to fight me now so I won’t be short of opponents when we get going again.”
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