Youngstown’s Lyell to fight for middleweight crown

Columbus Boxing ExaminerSamuel Rossi

Youngstown’s own Billy Lyell (22-7, 4 KO) has just signed to square off against IBF Middleweight Champion Sebastian Sylvester (32-3 15 KO) next Saturday night in Neubrandenburg, Germany.

A 2002 graduate of Niles McKinley High School and recent graduate of Youngstown State University, Lyell is currently ranked #14 by the IBF. The fighter’s handlers entered a quick series of negotiations yesterday with the Sylvester camp after the Champion’s original opponent, Pablo Navascues, tested positive for banned substances.

Although the fight was made on short notice, Lyell has been in the gym for months in preparation for his next bout. Initially, he had been scheduled to fight next weekend in West Virginia, but a change of plans was in order once greater opportunity came about.

In a phone conversation moments ago, Pat Nelson, the fighter’s manager, said that, “Billy is in tip-top shape and is heading to Germany to win.”

The road to a title shot has been a long one for the Niles native since turning pro in 2003, including a two year stretch that saw him losing four of eight bouts between ’06 and ’08. However, through it all, Lyell has proven to be very game competition against middleweight up-and-comers like James Kirkland and Vanes Martirosyan.

In recent years, Lyell’s career has seen a rejuvenation of sorts that hit its highest note thus far last April when he defeated the previously unbeaten “Irish” John Duddy. That fight was widely viewed as a tune-up for Duddy who was believed to be on his way for a crack at WBC/WBO titlist Kelly “The Ghost” Pavlik, also from Youngstown, Ohio. Lyell’s split-decision win not only derailed Duddy’s fast-track to a title shot, but also managed to shake up much of the division’s make-up.

Sylvester secured the IBF championship two months prior to Lyell-Duddy, when he defeated Gaetano Nespro for the vacant middleweight strap. Fellow German Felix Sturm currently holds the WBO version of the title.

Nelson noted that “at five o’clock next Saturday, Youngstown may very well have its second reigning Middleweight Champion.” While such an occurence is a rarity for a city of its size, it will not be the first time that two champions of the same division graced the city streets with titles. Remember, it was just over twenty-five years ago when Valley natives Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini and Harry Arroyo simultaneously held the WBA and IBF Lightweight titles.

It is obvious that, for Youngstown, an added boost of morale and pride lays ahead should its fighter win.

But for Lyell, the fight brings with it the moment he has been dreaming about since he first learned to punch.

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