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Boxing: SCOUSERS EYE FINAL FLOURISH; City stars aiming for ABA glory at Olympia.

Byline: By NICK PEET

ENGLAND'S Olympic hopefuls will do battle at Liverpool Olympia over the next 48 hours in the quarter-finals and semi-finals of the 118th ABA Championships.

With the majority of the national elite squad entered into the tournament, the level of competition promises to be top drawer.

The action begins at noon tomorrow with the first round of the quarter-finals (approximately 20 bouts), followed by the evening session from 6pm (18 bouts). Then Thursday's evening semi-final session will determine the line-up for the national finals in London on December 1.

Both of tomorrow's sessions will feature plenty of homegrown talent - with the Scouse-packed North West Counties finalists taking on the Home Counties.

Reigning ABA champions Stephen Smith and Paul Edwards both feature tomorrow, along with former light-heavy weight champion Joe Ainscough.

Both Nathan Brough and Joey Selkirk have talent in abundance but have ye to prove it in the ABAs - while Mick Phillips and Johnny Ward will be keen to add to their recent KO performances. And all eyes will again be on one of the city's newest stars, Thomas Stalker, who has been making up for missing out on all competitions last season with a string of sterling displays.

The St Aloysius teenager faces an experienced operator in Reading's George Jones, but with England number one Frankie Gavin in the opposing side of the draw, Stalker has a great chance to make the national final.

For feather weight Smith, who added Commonwealth gold and European bronze to his first ABA crown last season, the next 12 months could not be bigger.

The Rotunda champion has targeted the World Championships in 12 months time as his target to qualify for the 2008 Olympics, and everything is geared towards making the grade for Beijing.

"It's all about the Olympics now," said the 22-year-old.

"We have a good strong local squad out in the ABAs over the next few days and with a good home crowd behind us I am sure we can top last year's total of seven finalists.

"It's a very important competition this year, with the Olympic qualifiers on the horizon, and it's essential for everybody to make a big impact so the national team selectors take notice."

He added: "I'm very confident of picking up where I left off last season after working on my fitness through the summer and I am hoping for another big year."

Smith takes on a familiar foe tomorrow. Slough's Ian Bailey must hate the sight of the Aintree feather after, at the same stage last season, the visitor lasted just two rounds against Smith.

But Smith added: "Bailey is a good kid and will have gone away and no doubt worked on different things to try to beat me.

"He wouldn't have entered had he not thought he could cause an upset so I am looking forward to the bout."

Heavyweight stars Anthony Bellew - gunning for his fourth consecutive national title, and David Price, himself on a hat-trick, are unmatched tomorrow but will feature in Thursday's semi-finals, as will light-flyweight teenage prospect Paul Butler.

Tickets for all sessions at the Olympia are priced pounds 15 ringside, pounds 10 outer and are available on 0151233 6349.

ABA CHAMPIONSHIPS QUARTER-FINAL DRAW

(West Lanes boxers in BOLD) 48kg: Three entries remain - all walkovers. 51kg: M Walsh (Norwich Lads) - walkover, P Edwards (Salisbury) v A Sexton (Cheshut), G Smith (Services) - walkover, S Langley (Hollinqton) v U Malik (Merlin).

54kg: R Walsh (Kingfisher) v D Webb (Broad Plains), K De'ath (Norfhside) - walkover J Allen (Services) v Sn Goff (St Marys), L Campbell (St Pauls) v S Hall (Spennymoor).

57kg: L Walsh (Kingfisher) v C Higgs (Lydney), S Smith (Rotunda) v I Bailey (Slough), M Travis (Services) v A Dingsdale (Brompton), S Mounieme (St Pauls) v M Ward (Birtley).

60kg: M Poston (Harwich) v B Murray (Jersey Leonis), T Stalker (St Aloysius) v G Jones (Reading), A Urrutia (Services) v J Dean (Waterside), L Turner (West Ham) v F Gavin (Hall Green).

64kg: S Crumpton (Kingfisher) v J Cox (Walcoft), NBrough (St Aloysius) v L Gray (Stevenage), M Stead (Services) v M Page (Golden Ring), G Barker (Repton) v B Saunders (South Durham).

69kg: A Ogogo (Triple A) v A Coles (Cambourn & Redruth), J Selkirk (Rotunda) v P Stedman (Wolvercote), D Robinson (Services) v J Leigh (Moneyfield), 0. Etundayo (Harringay) v M Clauzel (Grainger Park).

75kg: K Wooton ( Harlow) v M Reid (Walcott), M Phillips (Vauxhalls) v T Skipper (Stevenage), J Summers (Services) v A Wilson (Crawley), G Groves (Dale Youth) v A Johnson (St George).

81kg: C Brodie (Arena) v M Spooner (Devonport), J Ainscough (Kirkdale) v H Sessegon (Wolvercote), A Richardson (Services) v A Hanivar (Hastings), 0 Mbwakongo (Fisher) v S McCrone (Spennymoor).

86kg: M Redhead (Kingfisher) v N Zacharkin (Pilgrims), J Ward (Kirkby) v L Howkins (Pinewood Star), S McDonald (Services) v T Watson (Golden Ring), J Dickenson (Birtley) - walkover.

91kg: P Wright (Chatteris) - walkover, A Bellew (Rotunda) - walkover, D Reed (Money-field) - walkover, D Price (Westway) v W Baister (Marley Potts)

91kg+: M Elkins (Barnstaple) - walkover, D Price (Salisbury) - walkover, T Dallas (St Marys) - walkover, D Campbell (Repton) v D Hughes (Hylton Castle).

CAPTION(S):

YOUNG TALENT: Thomas Stalker will face Reading's George Jones in the quarters' 'SWIFTY': Stephen Smith
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Nov 14, 2006
Words:877
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