Boxing in Wales – the ones to watch

Tokyo was the scene of one of Welsh sport's greatest moments way back in 1964 when Lynn Davies struck Olympic gold in the long jump.

Next year, the Games are returning to the Japanese capital and there are a host of Welsh sportsmen and women eyeing up medals of a similar colour. Among them are the Commonwealth Games golden duo from last year, boxers Sammy Lee and Lauren Price.

sammy lee

(Pic - Welsh Boxing)

Lee's rise from promising teenager to Olympic title contender in the 81kg light heavyweight category was confirmed by his incredible triumph at the Gold Coast.

A few months earlier he had delivered gold at the Commonwealth Youth Games in the Bahamas, yet there he was in Australia mixing it with the men in his first senior contest and coming out on top.

"He is the full package and I don't see any reason why he can't qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. I am sure he will get there, raise a few eyebrows and cause a few shocks," said Wales national boxing coach Colin Jones, who was in Lee's corner last year.

"He had only been on our programme for two years and we dropped him down from 91 to 81Kgs. He went to Australia without a senior contest and that's why I was so excited by what he achieved.

"It really was something special to do what he did at Gold Coast and I don't think it will be done again. He is mature beyond his years and he is something special.

"If he listens to the people who want to guide him in the right direction there is nothing he can't do. He has been working out of the Team GB camp in Sheffield since he came back from the Commonwealth Games and I think he is young enough to do another Commonwealths for Wales before perhaps turning pro."

If winning the Commonwealth title proved to everyone what Lee was capable of, getting accepted onto the Team GB Podium Squad working out of the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield was the a crucial step forward. Under the expert eye of Rob McCracken, he has been able to develop his talent and build towards Tokyo.

When he was selected to join the camp in Sheffield, Lee was quick to recognise the significance of the move.

"My dream of competing at the Olympic Games is a step closer and now a realistic possibility having been selected for the Podium Squad at Team GB. I will now be living at the Team GB headquarters in Sheffield and training as a full time athlete. I'd like to thank all my coaches, family, friends and supporters who have helped me achieve this selection," Tweeted Lee at the time.

He is one of two boxers in the 81Kg class, along with England's Ben Whittaker, and he showed how much he is developing by winning a silver medal at the European Under 22 Championships in Vladikavkaz, Russia, in March. He narrowly missed out on gold in the final when Ukranian fighter Oleksander Pokhrebnyak was given the verdict on a split decision.

"I started on the GB team on 9 May last year and it is everything that I wanted. I trained a lot for Gold Coast and I knew I wasn't going to come away with anything less than a gold medal," said Lee, now 20.

"It was so much bigger at the Gold Coast than the Youth Commonwealth Games and it was my first senior contest. It was much different fighting with no head guards and against men instead of young boys. They weren't as easy to hit as the youths, but I showed them who the man is.

"But the hard work began when I got back and went up to Sheffield. You learn something new every day and going to Tokyo is the goal - I want to go there and win gold again."

boxing

(Pic - Welsh Boxing)

Qualification for the Olympics will be made easier for Lee and the other Welsh boxers training out of Sheffield if they can perform well at the AIBA World Championships in Yekaterinburg, Russia, 5-21 September. That is an official qualifying tournament for Tokyo, as are the women's championships in Ulan-Ude, Russia, between 14-31 October.

Price and fellow Welsh Commonwealth Games medalist from last year, Rosie Eccles, are both dreaming of getting to the Olympics and former Wales soccer international Price, who became the first Welsh women to win gold in the ring at Gold Coast, is currently ranked No 3 in the world at 75Kg behind China's Qian Li and Holland's Nouchka Fontijn.

She turned her attentions to boxing after winning 52 caps for Wales at football and is arguably the best British female boxer in the amateur ranks at present. She dreams one day of following in the footsteps of Nicola Adams in not only winning Olympic gold, but perhaps then stepping up into the professional ranks.

She followed on from her golden success with Team Wales by winning two more major medals last year with bronzes at the World Championships in New Delhi, India, and the European Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria.

"Since I was a little kid my dream has always been to go to an Olympic Games. It is my job to train and prepare myself the best way possible," said Price.

Lauren Price

Pic: Welsh Boxing

"The top eight at the World Championships qualify for the Olympics and my main aim is Tokyo. Then we will see what happens from there.

"Boxing has gone from being a hobby to a job - and I love my job. Sheffield is a world class programme and it really has raised the standard of British boxing. Nicola Adams came through there and Anthony Joshua.

"You have your own house and I am living the dream. We are up at 7.00am and then out on the track or in the gym. Then we either do S&C work or pad work and we have sparring in the afternoons.

"The four years between Glasgow and the Gold Coast flew by and the time will fly by between now and the Tokyo Olympics."

Eccles and Mickey McDonagh are also at the Sheffield academy and Eccles followed up her silver medal at the Gold Coast with two wins and a third place at international contests at 69Kg.

rosie eccles

Pic - Welsh Boxing 

McDonagh, the 2017 British Boxing champion at 64Kg and a bronze medalist with Team Wales down under last year, is also developing well and the Merlin's Bridge ABC product is well in the hunt for a ticket to Japan in 2020.

Four Welsh boxers chasing gold in Tokyo? Now wouldn't that be something!