Preview: A storm is coming! Brace yourselves

Preview: A storm is coming! Brace yourselves

Ebbw Vale’s Ashley ‘The Storm’ Brace (5-0, 2KO) is on the brink of becoming the first Welsh female professional fighter to win a title as the scales start to even on boxing’s gender gap.

English flyweight Nicola Adams (1-0) and Irish super-featherweight Katie Taylor (4-0, 2KO) have recently turned over to the paid code, both commanding mass-media attention in their respective native countries.

Coupled with the backing of promotional powerhouses Frank Warren and Eddie Hearn, each of the Olympic gold medalists are receiving broad exposure from broadcasting giants BT Sport and Sky Sports.

The fanfare is priming the pair as the face of female boxing and changing prehistoric sexist perceptions that still exist in some corners, helping to hold the door open for the likes of Brace to forge their own footsteps, too.

At bantamweight, Brace sits between Adams and Taylor’s weight categories. Though domestic pools are shallow, neither is likely to meet her in the middle anytime soon and the 26-year-old Welshwoman must carve her own career path.

That starts with her first professional title shot at the Ebbw Vale Leisure Centre on Saturday 22 April, where she faces Alexandra Vlajk (11-5, 2KO) for the WBC International belt over eight two minute rounds.

So far, the unbeaten contender has only visited the sixth session on one occasion, out-pointing former European and world champion Galina Koleva Ivanova in the process. There was nothing to suggest an extra two rounds would be an issue for Brace, who switched stances throughout and appeared fresh at the final bell in October.

Brace, who trains with Tony Borg at St Joseph’s Boxing Club in Newport, is very energetic and capable of testing the 37-year-old legs of Vlajk, even if the visitor is more experienced and has been to the eighth round or beyond on five occasions.

It’ll be Brace’s first appearance in her hometown and a headline slot on Sanigar Events’ ‘Storm Warning’ show signals her status as one of Welsh boxing’s must-see attractions.

Brace, who sells scores of tickets in her local area, could be an even bigger deal if she had gained the opportunities her talent was worthy of as an amateur. An issue handled poorly by Welsh Boxing, the organisation that governs the amateur code in Wales, and the International Boxing Association [AIBA] meant she was deemed ineligible to represent her country at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Appearing on S4C’s new ‘Y Ffeit’ programme will give Brace’s profile a boost, opening her to a terrestrial audience when highlights are shown on Wednesday 19 April. It’s the final installment of the programme’s first series, presenting Brace with a chance to make a lasting impression.

A seven-fight undercard will support Brace, though the only confirmed contest is the six rounder between Cardiff’s light-heavyweight Nathan Thorley’s (5-0, 2KO) and Aberystwyth’s Jamie Ambler (12-68-2, 3KO).

Opponents are yet to be officially announced for Welsh super-welterweight champion Tony Dixon (9-1, 3KO), Pontypridd’s light-heavyweight Jermaine Asare (6-1, 1KO), Trelewis’ lightweight Gavin Gwynne (4-0, 1KO), Cardiff’s super-welterweight Jamie ‘JJ’ Evans (4-0), Swansea’s lightweight Kristian Touze (2-0) and Tredegar’s welterweight Ricky Rowlands (1-0).

Image provided by Huw Fairclough. To view more first class photography, visit: www.HuwFaircloughPhotography.co.uk

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