Team GB’s Boxing preview for Olympics: Ones to watch, potential surprises

Boxing

Team Great Britain has had one of the most dominant teams in boxing across the last decade with at least nine medals in the last three summer Olympics.

For the 11 fighters heading to Tokyo 2020, the expectations of success based on their predecessors performance will weigh on their shoulders.

In Beijing in 2008, Team GB won gold and two bronze medals, London 2012 produced a stellar three golds, a silver and bronze on home turf, and at Rio 2016, the team won gold, silver and bronze.

Many of the boxers who have medalled at a Games have gone on to become some of the biggest names in the professional sport, and holders of multiple world titles. James DeGale held the super-middleweight title twice; Billy Joe Saunders held world titles across two weight divisions, while Lawrence Okolie is the WBO world cruiserweight champion. Nicola Adams became the first woman to win gold in boxing in London 2012 and retired from the professional scene in 2019 with an undefeated record and held the WBO female flyweight title.

Anthony Joshua, who made his name winning gold in his home city of London in 2012, is the WBA-IBF-WBO world heavyweight champion and one of the sport’s highest earners; he will face Oleksandr Usyk in September at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium after his unified title bout with Tyson Fury collapsed.

Based on past success, Team GB’s current crop of 11 have the potential to join the medal tally and make themselves known in the boxing world, so who are they and what are their chances?

Gold medal contenders

Lauren Price — Middleweight (75kg)

The reigning world champion is the favourite to triumph in her weight class in Tokyo after winning her European Olympic Boxing qualifying tournament in Paris in June. The 27-year-old from Caerphilly in Wales, won gold at the 2019 World Championship and 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Price, who supported her early career as a cabbie, said: “I used to work as a taxi driver at weekends when I was with the Wales team. I would be in camp Monday to Thursday and then do the taxi job on Friday and Saturday nights, picking up all the drunks. My grandparents got me through it. They took me in at three days old and supported me all my career. Losing my granddad recently was a big thing in my life but I know when I get in the ring he will be looking down on me.”

Pat McCormack — Welterweight (69kg)

Pat McCormack and his twin brother Luke are both in the Team GB boxing team. Pat, who won silver at the 2019 world championships and was the 2019 European champion, is Team GB’s best hope for gold in the men’s competition. The 26-year-old from Washington in North-east England, arrived in Japan in top form after he beat 2019 world champion Andrey Zamkovoy in the final of the Olympic qualifying event in Paris in June.

McCormack, who doesn’t spar with brother Luke at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield where the Team GB boxing team is based, is expected to do better than his run at Rio 2016, when he was beaten in his last 16 bout. McCormack is friends with England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, who is also from Washington.

Frazer Clarke — Super-heavyweight (91kg+)

The bubbly Burton-on-Trent boxer could not have wished for a better experience when it comes to sparring. Clarke, 29, who is captain of the boxing team, has sparred with the likes of 2016 silver medalist Joe Joyce and 2012 gold medalist Anthony Joshua in recent years.

He won gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and silver at the European Olympic qualifying event in Paris in June. Clarke, who joined the GB Boxing Development squad in 2010, has seen the likes of Joshua and Joyce win Olympic medals and succeed in the professional ranks. Now Clarke gets his turn, and is confident of the team’s chances.

He said: “If you look at the qualifying event, we had a lot in the finals. I’m experienced, I’ve seen two Olympics squads, I’ve seen how people peak and I think we’re in a good position. Leading the pack is Pat McCormack, for me he’s the standout fighter in this group. I think we are in the best position I have seen in the two squads I have seen personally.”

Read more: A decade on, Frazer Clarke is on the cusp of his Olympic dream

Peter McGrail — Featherweight (57kg)

The Liverpool-based boxer, who has been with Team GB since he was 14 years old, won bronze at the 2019 World Championships and gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. McGrail, 25, is a stylish technician who secured his Olympic place last year before lockdown and will be a target for professional promoters after Tokyo.

Read more: Coronavirus lays a path of confusion and upheaval upon Olympic Boxing

Ben Whittaker — Light-heavyweight (81kg)

The 24-year-old boxer, from the West Midlands, won bronze at the 2019 World Championships which suggests he could be a medal contender in Tokyo. Whittaker, who is a fan of Japanese animation, turned down offers to turn professional during the delay for the Olympics. He won silver at the European Olympic qualifying event in June.

Caroline Dubois — Lightweight (60kg)

As the younger sister of Daniel, heavyweight contender in the professional scene, and after showing great potential in only 37 amateur fights, Dubois will attract plenty of interest.

The 20-year-old from Greenwich in south London, lost only her second fight as an amateur at the qualifiers last month.

She said: “One of the biggest challenges was the year out [due to the pandemic] — we had no fighting or training. I’ve not had the experience of fighting in tournaments where as my opponents have already had that experience of 100 or so bouts. I’ve only had 15 [as a senior]. I’ve been boxing juniors and I’ve not had the chance to compete at the big stage at the Europeans or Worlds and that’s the biggest challenge I have to be able to compete with these girls at tournaments.”

Read more: Dubois on her journey from disguising as ‘Colin’ to seeking Olympic gold

Remaining competitors

Cheavon Clarke — Heavyweight (91kg)

At 30, the Gravesend-based boxer is the oldest member of the squad and that experience should see him go deep into the tournament. Clarke, who was born and raised in rural Jamaica until he moved to England aged 11, won bronze at the European Olympic qualifying event in Paris in June.

He competed for Jamaica at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, then gave up boxing to work as an HGV driver. He returned to the sport and got into the Team GB squad and is expected to turn professional after Tokyo.

Karriss Artingstall — Featherweight (57kg)

The 26-year-old from Macclesfield in Cheshire, who is a Gunner in the British Army and started in the sport by competing for the British Army Boxing Team, showed her quality two years ago at the World Championships, when she won a bronze. She secured her Olympic place after winning a box-off in June, following defeat in the quarterfinals of the European qualifying event.

Luke McCormack — Light-welterweight (63kg)

Like his twin brother Pat, Luke won a bronze medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and has plenty of experience. Luke, 26, won bronze at the Olympic qualifying event in Paris in June, when he was beaten by France’s Sofiane Oumiha, the 2016 Olympic silver medalist.

Galal Yafai — Flyweight (52kg)

The Birmingham boxer, 28, who won gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, comes from a family of fighters and his experience suggests he could make the podium in Tokyo. Yafai, whose parents are from Yemen, won silver at the European Olympic qualifying event in Paris in June. Elder brother Kal Yafai competed at the 2012 Olympics and then reigned as WBA junior bantamweight world champion from 2016 to 2020. Galal’s other elder brother, Gamal, is also a professional boxer.

Along with Pat McCormack, Yafai is the only boxer to have competed at the last Olympics.

Charley Davison — Flyweight (51kg)

The Lowestoft boxer, 27, is a mum-of-three who initially only returned to boxing to lose weight after giving up the sport to have children. “I didn’t expect to get this far,” Davison said. “The extra year has really benefited me because I’ve gained so much more experience, more rounds under my belt. I’ve been to training camps and competitions in Paris and Serbia. I’m capable of winning a medal, 100%.”

Davison will be relying on Zoom calls to keep in touch with her children over the coming weeks. She said: “I find it a lot easier with video calling. When I was in Paris [in June at the the Road to Tokyo European Olympic qualifying event] I was away for five weeks, that’s the longest I have been away from my children and video calls definitely helped me out a lot, that’s how I got through it. The children don’t really understand much about the Olympics, they’re only young — nine, seven and five — but they learnt about it at school a bit.”

Read more: Three kids and seven years later, a mother fights for her Olympic dream

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