Del Melnyk keeps his eyes focused on the target during a sparring session with Willy Buckley. Melnyk is one of the co-main events for the AM Ford Fight Night on April 16 at the Cominco Arena. He’ll be fighting Stephan Frictra for the third straight year. Frictra won the first bout and last year the duo had Fight of the Night in their draw.

Del Melnyk keeps his eyes focused on the target during a sparring session with Willy Buckley. Melnyk is one of the co-main events for the AM Ford Fight Night on April 16 at the Cominco Arena. He’ll be fighting Stephan Frictra for the third straight year. Frictra won the first bout and last year the duo had Fight of the Night in their draw.

Redemption sets tone for Fight Night

Redemption.

It’s a word on every fighter’s mind after a tough loss.

And that’s the catalyst for this year’s AM Ford Fight Night on April 16 at the Cominco Arena.

Pride Gym trainer and promoter Glen Kalesniko’s lineup of fights features a few twists and rematches in what promises to draw another big crowd to the 13th annual edition of the event and sixth in the arena.

“That’s why we went with the word ‘Redemption,’” said Kalesniko.

He explained the original lineup featured a main event rematch between local star Brad Causey and the man he defeated in an epic 2009 brawl – Adam Thomas.

Although that fight eventually fell through and Causey dropped off the card, two other co-main event bouts also feature grudge matches.

Nelson’s Del Melnyk will take on Stephan Frictra in a rematch of their 2010 Fight-of-the-Night where the fighters went toe-to-toe in a deserved draw. Actually it will be the third meeting between the two fighters with Melnyk searching for his first win.

And Fruitvale’s Jordan Knippelberg will try to avenge his only professional loss, which was handed to him by Cranbrook’s Curtis Blackmore a year ago at the Cominco Arena.

Kalesniko said he took a blow to his card when Causey was injured recently in training.

“It would have been perfect, we would have a chance at redemption in our top three fights. But it didn’t work out that way.It’s disappointing but those things happen.”

Kalesniko explained Causey is out for at least a month after injuring a calf muscle.

And while the night might be themed “Redemption,” there will be a first-time showdown worth watching as well when Morgan River Jones takes on Surrey’s Cheryl Chan.

“This is one I wanted to put together and make it a good contest,” said Kalesniko.

“This is the two top women in B.C. fighting it out.

“River was ranked number seven in North America among amateurs and Cheryl is really getting known down on the West Coast.”

While the female bout usually produces the most entertaining action, the subplot of the co-main events features interesting scenarios.

This will be the third time in three AM Ford Fight Nights that Melnyk and Frictra have squared off.

Melnyk remembers the first meeting all too well.

“He was my first pro fight and he caught me in a submission hold,” he recalled.

Last year, the two slugged it out in fair decision that declared the bout a draw.

“I still have a score to settle,” said Melnyk.

“I think it’s going to be pretty much the same as last year, which is going to be great for the crowd,” said Kalesniko.

After two previous bouts, Melnyk said he’s going to avoid wrestling with Frictra and use his boxing skills to his advantage. However, he also realizes that Frictra is very familiar with his style.

“It could work both ways. I’m trying not to focus on what he’s going to do but focus on what I’m good at. I’m going in there to do what I do.”

Knippelberg knew what he had to do after last year’s loss to Blackmore.

“He was stronger than me last year,” he admitted.

“But I can’t beat myself up over that fight. This time I’m prepared. I’ve been waiting for this fight since last April.”

It was Knippelberg’s first loss in five pro bouts, which has included wins in Lethbridge, Castlegar and Victoria in the past year.

Kalesniko said the Pride Gym fighter has added muscle to his frame while still maintaining his weight class.

“We worked a lot on his strength,” said the trainer. “He’s a stronger 155 (pound). We worked on his lateral movement so he can stay on his feet. He can out-punch anybody.”

Knippelberg said it would come down to him avoiding Blackmore’s attempts at takedowns.

“What he did with me last year was shot in and ground-and-pound me. This year I have way better takedown defence. I’ll try and stay on my feet.”

If the two co-main events offer a blast from the past, several of the 13 fights on the undercard feature connecting links.

Nathan Johre will take on Jeff Blackmore, brother to Curtis, and Sandy Bagg will face a fighter on took on his brother a couple of years ago.

Meanwhile, the loss of Causey from the top bill bumps Wesley Neil’s bout into the main event portion.

According to Melnyk, regardless of who is fighting whom, the night is always electric.

“The atmosphere is unmatched,” he said. “The crowd in Trail is amazing.”

Tickets are on sale in Castlegar, Nelson, Fruitvale and Trail or contact the Pride Gym.