The Commonwealth Games boxing tournament kicks off in Birmingham on Friday and leads straight to the Paris 2024 Olympics for all English, Welsh and Scottish boxers.
On the Gold Coast four years ago, four of Britain’s medalists won gold medals from Tokyo; Galal Yafai, Pat McCormack, Frazer Clarke and Lauren Price are now lost for the pro game. GB boxers are in transition and that is why the Birmingham event is so important. Every single English boxer from the Gold Coast has now turned pro.
It’s not quite the same for the Indian and Australian boxing teams. The Indians are now, unofficially, and arguably the best boxing team in the Commonwealth.
There are potential clashes between the English, Welsh and Scottish boxers at various weights that could be seen as box-offs by the men and women in charge of future GB team selection to become the first choice for Paris and to get the Olympic qualification. Trust me, the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham are a far cry from any form of friendlies. Please leave this fantasy behind.
So many members of the GB squad have lived and fought together at their headquarters in Sheffield and on the road in different countries. They are friends, teammates, they share rooms and in this tournament they are rivals. It’s a bizarre system – brutal, to tell you the truth.
Perhaps the coldest and craziest clash will be a repeat of this year’s European light middleweight final, when England’s Harris Akbar defeated Welshman Garan Croft in Armenia in May; Akbar became only the fourth English boxer since 1961 to win the European amateur boxing title. Two British boxers against each other in the final is quite absurd and underlines the quality of the GB squad system. Garan and Harris start as favorites to win gold. Garan’s twin Ioan has a fighting chance at welterweight; Ioan won bronze at the European Championships.
In the under 70kg category, a bitter rivalry is likely to erupt again as Rosie Eccles of Wales meets Jodie Wilkinson of England. Eccles has been in this atrocious situation before, losing a wafer-thin decision to England’s Sandy Ryan in the final four years ago. “It’s been a long, long four years,” admitted Eccles, who should have gone to the Tokyo Olympics but her box-off event was canceled due to Covid restrictions. Eccles waited 16 months hoping a special box-off event would take place, but ended up being denied her chance in the shadow of the Tokyo Olympics. She has Paris on her mind and Wilkinson on her way. When traveling to fights abroad, they share rooms.
At middleweight, England’s Lewis Richardson, a silver medalist at the European Championships in Armenia, may have to face Scotland’s Sam Hickey again. Hickey lost on points to Richardson in the semifinals at that event. Their rivalry should result in one of the best fights of the tournament if they manage to meet.
There’s heritage and pride in super heavyweight; five of the last six winners came from England and four went on to win Olympic medals. Delicious Orie is England’s No. 1 topweight and fights for the Jewelery Quarter boxing club in Birmingham city centre. Walking in big boots, he follows Audley Harrison in 1998, Joe Joyce in 2014 and Clarke four years ago.
“I just want to show that if you believe in it, you can achieve it,” Orie said. “This is the start for me – I’ll enjoy every second of it.” Orie has been in a brutal fast lane since last October with Worlds appearances and a bronze medal at the European Championships.
A total of 31 boxers from England, Scotland and Wales will weigh in this week for Friday’s boxing start; You will win the majority of medals. The true stories are the hidden rivalries, the dreams, the fears, and the realization that they are all fighting for their future under a false banner of kindness. It has that local pride that is lacking when British boxers meet in distant lands and in silent rings.
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/boxing/commonwealth-games-2022-birmingham-b2132132.html Commonwealth Games 2022: No friendlies as Britain’s best fight for its future in Birmingham