A triumphant week at the Boxing Road to Tokyo European Olympic qualifier in Paris saw GB Boxing qualify 11 boxers (seven men and four women) for Tokyo 2021.
Seven of the 12 boxers from Great Britain that competed at the tournament reached the final as the team returned from Paris with a nine medal haul made-up of golds for Lauren Price and Pat McCormack, silvers for Charley Davison, Caroline Dubois, Ben Whittaker, Galal Yafai and Frazer Clarke and bronze for Luke McCormack and Cheavon Clarke.
The gold medals for Price and McCormack capped a superb week as both boxers delivered a series of excellent performances to confirm their status as medal contenders for Tokyo 2021.
GB Boxing’s Performance Director, Rob McCracken said: “It’s been a brilliant performance from the team. To qualify 11 boxers for the Olympic Games is a superb achievement and the boxers have really stepped-up when it matters.
“With everything we have had to deal with over the last 12 months, the preparation has not always been ideal, but the coaches and support staff have done a great job of getting the team ready and the boxers have delivered when it matters most.
“Pat and Lauren have been outstanding throughout the tournament and have both beaten world champions to win today which is fantastic.
“Frazer Clarke has boxed great this week and to see him finally secure an Olympic place after all the years of service he has given to GB Boxing was a great moment for the whole team. Caroline and Charley are still relative newcomers to our squad so for them to get silver medals and guarantee qualification at this event is a great achievement.
“All of the team can be really pleased with what they have done this week. It’s been a great performance and shows that we are on track and making good progress as we build up to the Olympic Games.”
All six finals in the opening session of the day featured a boxer from Great Britain although Ben Whittaker was withdrawn from his light-heavyweight final as a precaution.
First into the ring was Charley Davison who delivered another fine performance but unfortunately found herself on the wrong side of 4-1 split decision against the tournament’s number one seed, Buse Naz Cakiroglu of Turkey.
At lightweight Caroline Dubois faced Ireland’s highly experienced number two seed, Kellie Harrington. Although Dubois was undaunted by the reputation of the 2018 world champion, the Irish boxer had a little too much for her on the day as she secured a 4-1 split decision victory.
The next bout pitched Wales’ 2019 middleweight world champion against Russia’s Zenfira Magomedalieva who won the light-heavyweight division at the same tournament.
Although the Russian, who had come down from 81kg to compete in the Olympic middleweight (75kg) category, enjoyed a significant size and reach advantage, Price’s clever footwork and fast hands proved decisive as she outfoxed her opponent to win the gold medal and cap a superb week.
Lauren Price said: “I knew she was strong, because she’s come down from 81+ to 81, and now to 75, so I knew she was going to be strong, stronger than the others I’ve fought this week. So it was just about keeping my shape, and same tactics really, about speed.
“I felt a little bit tired in there today, but it’s expected, obviously four fights in five days. The main aim was to qualify, and I’ve topped it off by winning gold, so yeah, over the moon.
“Because I’m quite short, most people think that I’ve got to slip and box my way in, but I’m quite the opposite, obviously I wait to counter, so I don’t really look to opponents. I just keep to my tactics.
“I am looking forward to going home tomorrow. We were in Sheffield for two weeks before we came here and a week here before the tournament started, so been away for about four weeks.”
Another high-class contest between Great Britain and Russia in the men’s welterweight final saw Pat McCormack gain revenge on the man who beat him in the 2019 world championship final as he unanimously outpointed Andrei Zamkovoi to win the gold.
Pat McCormack said: “I’m feeling great, European champion, going to go to the Olympics, probably with the No 1 seed. I’ve just beaten the world champion, who beat me in the final of the worlds and cut me in Russia as well, so it’s been on my mind a lot. I got the win, and put it on him at the end and made sure. I’m just over the moon.
“I heard my brother shout, ‘make sure, how much do you want it?’ and then I just felt a fire inside me and a release of energy, and I just let it out, roaring like a lion.
“I’ve just beat the world champion, got silver at the worlds, lost on a cut, avenged my loss, and now I’m just looking on to the Olympics and hopefully pick up the gold medal. I’m feeling back on form and I’m ready to do a job.”
A barnstorming flyweight final between Great Britain’s Galal Yafai and Billal Bennama of France was finely balanced before the referee put a stop to the action in round three due to a clash of heads which left the French boxer with a cut above his eye. Although it looked accidental, Yafai was harshly adjudged to be at fault and was disqualified with the gold medal going to Bennama.
The last bout of the competition saw the host nation get the better of another split decision as France’s Mourad Aliev was awarded a 4-1 win over Great Britain’s Frazer Clarke in the super-heavyweight final.
It meant Great Britain finished the tournament with two gold, five silver, two bronze and 11 boxers qualified for the 2021 Olympic Games.
A highlights programme featuring the performance of the GB Boxing team will be screened on BBC2 on Sunday 13 June 2021 from 11:30-12:45. Studio guests will include London 2012 bronze medallist, Anthony Ogogo, and the first female boxer in history to represent Team GB at an Olympic Games, Natasha Jonas.