KILKENNY’S Vinny Di Ruscio was left feeling on top of the world after fighting his way to a professional kickboxing title.
Di Ruscio, a soldier at the James Stephens barracks, stunned two-time champion Fran Zucalla to get his hands on the belt at a packed O’Loughlin Gaels sports hall.
Di Ruscio, a member of the Dragons Lair club, has spent 20 years perfecting his skills for this shot at a world title. In a close bout both fighters gave their all in the early stages of the contest, Di Ruscio surviving a worrying spell when suffering a cut in round four.
Zucalla tried to work an advantage on the restart but, spurred on by the large home crowd, Di Ruscio fought back. The two combatants maintain the same intensity throughout the 12-round contest, with no quarter given.
At the end of the bout the judges’ scores were read out. The first judge scored the contest at 114-114, but with verdicts of 118-114 and 118-115 in his favour Di Ruscio was proclaimed champion to a deafening roar.
Exhausted, Di Ruscio still found the energy to thank everyone who helped him claim the title, from family and friends to coaches and club-mates.
The fight was the main event of a series of bouts staged by the Dragons Lair club. The undercard featured several fighters who are part of an emerging pool of local martial arts talent.
There was a good win also for Connor Doyle, who beat Spaniard Luis Antonio Vega Sanchez to lift the ISKA Amateur European title.
Doyle, a three-time Irish champion, adapted his game-plan to pick off points whenever Sanchez made an error to become the new European champion.