Exciting boxer Stan Stannard was rewarded for battling through a year of injury frustration with a surprise England call-up.
Stannard, from Harby, looked set for a big breakthrough last year when he was invited to train with British Boxing’s Olympic Podium Potential squad.
But an injury to his left hand and subsequent surgery decimated his season, sending him slipping down the rankings.
Stannard, who trains out of Clifton, in Nottingham, finally returned to the ring in June, and after the summer break only resumed training on August 22, looking to get back in peak condition for the new season.
But just a week later came the shock call-up to box for his country in Germany on his 22nd birthday.
The middleweight told tour head coach Sab Leo of his fitness concerns, but after being reassured, accepted the coveted invitation and flew to Munich with the team.
After a transfer to Eichstatt, in Bavaria, and weigh-in on Saturday morning, the party were taken on a visit to Audi Headquarters at Ingoldstatt before the action got under way the following day.
In front of more than 1,000 spectators, Stannard was down to fight in the ninth of 10 bouts against Andrej Merzlyakov, a fighter ranked in the world’s top 10 and who, three months earlier, had fought the world number one.
Entering the ring as the overwhelming underdog after a whirlwind few weeks, Stannard came out and turned in an impressive display of skill, power, and determination.
With little to separate the two boxers over the three rounds, the England camp scored round one to Stannard, two to Merzlyakov and round three to the Englishman.
Ultimately, the judges awarded the fight to the German on a split decision, but despite lacking full fitness, Stannard had earned the praise of his opponent and the admiration of the England coaching staff.
The display of guts and self belief has earned Stannard another chance to box for his country in Sweden during November with the same coaching staff.
In the meantime, it’s back to the hard hours in the gym and back out on the road as he continues to learn his trade and bids to make up for lost time.