Eddie Hearn, Chairman of Matchroom Sport:
“We’re back in Manchester, hopefully, the final event behind closed doors. Last Saturday, I was not getting bored of telling you 73,000 fans were in the unbelievable AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas, for the huge Canelo vs. Billy Joe Saunders fight. This will be the last time we’re behind closed doors. It’s been fun; the bubbles have been great, they’ve thrown up some unbelievable upsets and great fights as well. We will keep the bubble moving forward, but you will be allowed out – so good news for the fighters!”
Joshua Buatsi – Croydon, England – 13-0, 11 KOs – defending his WBA International Light-Heavyweight title against Daniel Blenda Dos Santos:
“I’m ready to fight. The thing is, there may be a target on me, Eddie, but I’m really from the bottom, so the build-up is great, but that’s not my mentality. I started from nothing as well, moved from Ghana to England. I’ve also come from nothing. I always tell people when I fight, I’ve got nothing to lose, I’m gaining everything, and when I go in there, the mentally is different. I’ll be there to fight to, and I’m there to fight and protect the little that I have.
“I keep laughing when I say this; before a fight, you say you’re willing to do anything, but when it was a time in the ring when that happened, I had to show up for it, and I felt I gave a good account and got the win. Saturday night, I’ll be there to do whatever it takes to win because I’m in here to fight. We’ll see how it goes.
“I think if you ask anyone, and they don’t say it, they must be thinking differently. You’re Eddie Hearn right, you’re sitting here, and I think you feel like you’ve signed the best Light-Heavyweight in the country – that speaks for itself. For the others, they’re doing well, I’m doing what I’m doing, and hopefully, one day, we can all get in and fight to see. For now, my man next door is who I’ve got to deal with; that’s what I’m concentrating on.
“It’s been good having Virgil on board, amazing; I said I could have 100 coaches in my corner, but when that bell rings, it’s just you. Nevertheless, having this man here added to the team, we’ll see how to goes – it’ll be good.”
Virgil Hunter, trainer of Joshua Buatsi:
“I’m back here in the UK, a place I like to think of as home. I’ve been exposed to some of the UK’s greatest fighters that I’ve had a chance to meet as well as work with. Joshua Buatsi is no exception to that; I think he’s a major talent; I think he has a tremendous upside; I’m hoping to do everything to cultivate that and turn him into a World Champion.
“I think Joshua will apply some of the things we worked on and show Saturday night that he’s been a good student.
“Anytime that you have the opportunity to fight a medallist from the Olympics, that medal has a bullseye on his back. He’s going to get a hungry opponent; that opponent will be dead serious because he knows it can change the trajectory of his career. We don’t have much footage of Dos Santos, but we take him seriously on what we have seen, that he is a good fighter and taken seriously. That’s how we’re approaching the fight.”
Daniel Blenda Dos Santos – Pont-Sainte-Maxence, France – 15-0, 8 KOs – challenging Joshua Buatsi for his WBA International Light-Heavyweight Title:
“This is the opportunity of my life; we know Joshua is a great champion, and for me, it’s a great opportunity – I appreciate the chance of being here.
“Boxing saved my life; a guy like me is supposed to be in jail or dead. Thank God I had the opportunity to leave prison, make a real change in my life and become a professional fighter. I changed 100% of my life, my city, everything, now all this work and dedication, I’m in this place right now. I have to enjoy the moment.
“I have to be the best version of myself to beat Joshua Buatsi. That’s what I’m going to try Saturday night.”
Lerrone Richards – New Malden, England – 14-0, 3 KOs – fighting Giovanni De Carolis for the vacant European Super-Middleweight Title:
“As I’ve always said, I want to conquer Europe and is the European Champion has always been a big thing for me – ticking everyone single box. I won the British, Commonwealth, European is the next step, and I’m very excited for this fight.
“He [Giovanni De Carolis] brings a lot of pedigree, and he’s very experienced and a perfect fighter. But this is a fight I believe I’m going win and win very well.
“This division is very sexy, and I’m glad to be a part of it. I can’t wait to win this European Title and step on to bigger and better things.”
Giovanni De Carolis – Viterbo, Italy – 28-9-1, 13 KOs – fighting Lerrone Richards for the vacant European Super-Middleweight Title:
“I’m proud to represent my country here; I’m happy. Two years of inactivity for me is bad, but this is the situation, and for me, there isn’t any problem. I’m ready for Saturday, and I’m happy to fight.
“I am happy because when I fight out of my country, my heart in the ring is stronger. I want the people to see my boxing.”
Gamal Yafai – Birmingham, England – 18-1, 10 KOs – defending his European Super-Bantamweight Title against Jason Cunningham:
“I had a horrible two years, but it was good to go to Italy and win the European Title. It’s good to back home defending it in the UK.
“I thought to myself; this isn’t the end of me; I knew I was going to come back, win the European Title and go onto big things. That’s what I plan on doing, and we start on Saturday night.
“He wanted the opportunity, and I’ll give him the opportunity. The best man will win, and I’m by far the best man; I’ll show that on Saturday night.”
Jason Cunningham – Doncaster, England – 28-6, 6 KOs – challenging Gamal Yafai for the European Super-Bantamweight Title:
“Massive opportunity, another Yafai as well. As I said, we were begging for the opportunity; I always stay ready. I had an idea it was happening; I had to be prepared and ready. You’re going to see the best Jason Cunningham Saturday night; I’m ready for him and take that title.
“I got offered a few fights during the lockdown, but I’m so glad I was patient because this is the opportunity I wanted. This is the biggest fight to date; this is my World Title fight. I’ve got all this experience, I’ve taken my setbacks, I’ve come back, I’ve had plenty of success as well. They’ve all put me in good stead; there’s no starting again from here, so everything is going into Saturday night. I’m very confident, I’ll be expecting the best Gamal Yafai, but you should expect the best Jason Cunningham as well.”
Tommy McCarthy – Belfast, Northern Ireland – 17-2, 8 KOs – defending his European Cruiserweight Title against Alexandru Jur:
“I’ve been saying all week I’m expecting a tough test; as you say, he’s got all the experience and boxed at the championship level for some time. He looks in good shape; it seems like he’s had a good camp, and he seems like he wants to do his talking in the ring, so I’m even more nervous.
“I was prepared for a tough fight, but when I saw him [Bilal Laggoune] at the weigh-in, he looked like he hadn’t trained properly, so I switched off a little bit. When it came to fighting night, he was ready to go, so he pushed me. There are no easy fights when you’re fighting for the European Title; at the time, he was number seven in the world. It was a big win for me, a big confidence boost, and I’m delighted I came out the winner.
“There’s so much potential for a massive future ahead of me; I need to put all of that in the back of my mind. James Tennyson was from the same place, everything was set up for him to go on bigger and better things, but it didn’t go his way. That’s made me switch on, even more, put anything past this out of my mind because this is going to be a tough fight on Saturday, and I can’t afford any slip-ups.”
Alexandru Jur – Oradea, Romania – 19-4, 7 KO – challenging Tommy McCarthy for the European Cruiserweight Title:
“I’m already ready for the fight; I’m in good form. It’s a big opportunity for me.”
Dalton Smith – Sheffield, England – 7-0, 6 KOs – fighting Lee Appleyard for the vacant English Super-Lightweight Title:
“It’s starting to get exciting. When the fight fell through before I knew we would get it back on because it was a fight I wanted. It’s a fight I know I’m going to look good in, Lee and I have sparred before, so I’m glad we could get it back on.
“When I win, I can turn round and say there are no excuses; they’ve had a full camp. I’ve got a 100% prepared Lee Appleyard, and that’s what I want – that’s what will bring the best out of me.
“People forgot the World Series of Boxing, even though it’s not championship rounds. I’ve been in there with tough guys – the Kazakhs and Russians. My experience is the championship rounds, I’m confident in that, and I believe Lee will take me to those rounds, and that’s what I need.
“When it comes to pressure, there’s no pressure for me in this fight because each fight I take will be a step up – there’s always going to be pressure there. There’s more pressure on Lee’s shoulders because where does he really go after this fight. This is his World Title shot; this is where he can push on.”
Lee Appleyard – Rotherham, England – 16-5-1, 5 KOs – fighting Dalton Smith for the vacant English Super-Lightweight Title:
“This is a massive opportunity; it’s a pleasure to share the ring with Dalton. He’s one of the biggest prospects, but we took the fight on three weeks’ notice last time and believed we were going to win. We’ve had nine weeks now, and we have no doubt.
“It’s a hard fight; everyone’s writing me off, the bookies are writing me off. There’s no pressure on me whatsoever, all the pressure is on Dalton, and we’ll see how he deals with it on the night. When the fight goes into the later rounds, that’s where I’ve been and what I knew, and I’ll come into my own.
“When I boxed for the Commonwealth, that was only three and a half weeks’ notice, and I think that made the difference on the results on the night because I didn’t have time to prepare properly. It was a bit of a blessing to get Covid, have nine weeks of preparation, and get sponsors behind me.
“I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in, and I’m coming to win on Saturday night; there’s no doubt about it, Dalton’s got a tough night ahead of him.
“You can’t buy experience; there’s nothing between us, he’s a respectful lad, and I’m respectful to him. It’s a pleasure to share the ring with him, but I know what doors this can open; I want those doors open and keep moving on – fighting for the British Title. Concerning Dalton for taking the fight, this probably wouldn’t be happening if we weren’t in the COVID situation. This is a cracking fight for the fans; they’re in for a treat.”
Solomon Dacres – Birmingham, England – Professional Debut – fighting Mladen Manev in a six-round Heavyweight contest:
“It’s long overdue, and I thought I was going to get out March 20th on the Okolie card. Long delays, I’ve been training overtime for the fight – I’ve had about three training camps worth of training just for this one fight. It’s all in the bank, and I’m ready to let it all go Saturday.
“I don’t have to go too slowly; I can build myself up because I’ve got more experience so that I can take little steps quicker than other fighters. Sam Jones and my coach will pick opponents where I’m being tested and improve all the time. We won’t go at a snail’s pace and look to pick things up in the next twelve months.
“All that experience, guys that have been then and done. Joshua, Joyce, Dubois, sparring those guys, they’re 15/20 fights into their professional careers and well established. I’m sparring, gaining confidence, and knowing my own level. I haven’t had my first fight yet, but it gives you confidence seeing them fighting on big titles and gives me confidence knowing that I’m going to go forward and what I can do.
“It’s been a long time since there’s been a Heavyweight from Birmingham, and we have never had a World Champion in the Heavyweight division. Hopefully, I can emulate that and get the city behind me. We need to get that support in Birmingham and get behind me.”
Mladen Manev – Sofia, Bulgaria – 3-8, 3 KOs – fighting Solomon Dacres in a six-round Heavyweight contest:
“I’m ready to fight; I’m ready for a boxing match Saturday. I feel excellent to be here in Manchester; it’s a nice city. I’m ready.”
Ellis Hopkins – Leicestershire, England – Professional Debut – fighting Borislava Goranova in a four-round Super-Welterweight contest:
“It’s a massive time to come into female boxing, the last few years, female boxing has gone from strength to strength, and I’m excited to be a part of it and make my debut this weekend.
“Everyone looks up to Katie Taylor; you can’t get better than that; she’s won everything and done everything. The likes of Terry Harper and Natasha Jonas, they’re all big inspirations as well.
“I can box, I can fight, so whatever happens on the night happens on the night, we’ll see.”
Borislava Goranova – Sofia, Bulgaria – 11-64-4 – fighting Ellis Hopkins in a four-round Super-Welterweight contest:
“I’m happy to see Ellis, I’m happy to be here, and I feel strong. I’ll show you my boxing on Saturday night.”