The landscape of Olympic boxing in Britain has changed in the last two decades, with medals now an expectancy as opposed to a pipe dream. This year is no different, with 11 British fighters, four of them women, heading to Tokyo bidding to become the latest hero from inside the squared circle.
There were seven Olympics enjoyed between 1972 and 1996, with Team GB averaging just one medal per Games in that time. Then, firstly with Audley Harrison’s gold medal in 2000 and then Amir Khan’s silver in 2004, the perception changed, and the sweet science began to receive the funding that it deserved at amateur level.
Across the last three Olympics, in Beijing, London and Rio, Team GB have won 11 boxing medals, five of which were gold. The likes of Anthony Joshua, James DeGale, Luke Campbell and Nicola Adams have managed gold medals in that time, with the latter reigning supreme at flyweight in both London 2012 and Rio 2016.
Joe Joyce brought home a silver medal five years ago, while Joshua Buatsi, Anthony Agogo and David Price managed bronze in 2016, 2012 and 2008 respectively. However, that was then, and this is now. This summer’s hopefuls cannot afford to rest on the laurels of past joys and make history of their own. With the talent at our disposal, there is every chance of Team GB managing just that.
Let’s take a look at the big punchers that are looking to make an impact in Tokyo.
Charley Davison: Flyweight
Charley Davison has been fighting against the odds since she first laced up a pair of gloves. Her father had to train her when she first started out due to her local club not accepting female boxers, and her journey is an inspiring one.
The 27-year-old, out of Lowestoft, has won three of her last four amateur bouts, and her experience could prove to be crucial.
Karriss Artingstall: Featherweight
The women’s featherweight division is one of the most stacked at the Games, and Karris Astingstall will have her work cut out if she wants to take a medal back to Macclesfield.
She won her crucial sudden death fight in Paris to qualify, and has tournament pedigree to rely on. The 2019 World Championships were the last to take place before Covid-19 hit, and the 26-year-old took home a bronze medal there, losing to the eventual winner in Russia.
She has a serious chance of stepping onto the podium, but will have to overcome some fierce opposition to do so.
Caroline Dubois: Lightweight
Yep, you have heard that name somewhere before. Caroline’s older brother Daniel is the heavyweight sensation that was involved in the super fight with former Olympic silver medallist Joe Joyce.
However, Caroline is keen to make a name for herself in her own right, and has been doing so with a successful amateur career to date. A hugely promising youth career was followed up with a silver medal at the European qualifying event, and it will take a monumental effort from elsewhere to stop her bringing a medal back from Japan.
Lauren Price: Middleweight
Lauren Price is quite possibly Team GB’s best hope of a gold medal from inside the ring. She is the current world amateur champion and the number one seeded middleweight in Tokyo, and her decision to swap her football boots for boxing gloves has already been justified.
The former Wales international footballer won gold at the 2019 World Championships, but the same result at the Olympics would unquestionably be a career highlight. She is quick, slick and hard to hit. It would be something of a surprise if she didn’t find herself on the podium.
Galal Yafai: Flyweight
Kal Yafai’s younger brother Galal is much more than that – he has the talent to match his sibling and perhaps more.
Eliminated at the round of 16 stage five years ago, his experiences since then should stand him in good stead in the latter stages this summer. His gold medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games proves that he can produce when it matters most, and the difference between success and failure in Japan could come down to everything coming together at the right time.
Peter McGrail: Featherweight
The city of Liverpool has a long history of producing world class boxing talent. The likes of Tony Bellew, former Olympian David Price, and the Smith brothers are just some of the more recent Scouse boxers.
In Peter McGrail, Merseyside have another talent that is destined for greatness in the professional ranks. Before then, he has unfinished business at amateur level, with the Olympics the only major tournament that he hasn’t won a medal in.
If Lauren Price isn’t Team GB’s best hope of a boxing gold this year, the Evertonian is.
Luke McCormack: Lightweight
Another fighter with genuine medal hopes is Luke McCormack. He is as experienced as they come in the amateur ranks, and has a silver medal in the 2017 Europeans to boast of.
Going one better in the Olympics would be a surprise, but not one that should be ruled out. He and his brother Pat are the first identical twins to represent Team GB inside the ring, and both pack a punch that shouldn’t be underestimated.
Pat McCormack: Welterweight
Speaking of which, brother Pat has come on leaps and bounds since his disappointing showing in Rio five years ago. Since then, he has won gold at both European and Commonwealth tournaments and can look to take advantage of a favourable draw this summer.
In defeating world champion Andrey Zamkovoi in Paris last month, the welterweight brother is the one to beat in his division.
Ben Whittaker: Light-heavyweight
Another fighter to medal in recent events is Ben Whittaker. His podium appearances at both the 2019 World and European Championships prove that he can mix it with the best, and it will just be about putting all the pieces together in Tokyo.
Being unseeded may lead to a tricky draw if he is to make an impression in the latter stages, but, as the old saying goes, to be the best you’ve got to beat the best.
Cheavon Clarke: Heavyweight
He may have represented Jamaica at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, but Cheavon Clarke enters this summer’s Olympics as one of Team GB’s brightest hopes.
He tells a story of dreaming to become an Olympian while driving a truck, and that has finally become a reality this year. He has held his own against the best heavyweights in the amateur ranks, but doing so in sparring and under the bright lights is an entirely different proposition.
However, if his story has told us one thing, it is that anything is possible.
Frazer Clarke: Super-heavyweight
Last but by no means least, it’s the biggest hitter of the 11 Olympians in Frazer Clarke. The 29-year-old super-heavyweight is finally making his Olympic debut after missing out to eventual silver medallist Joe Joyce last time out.
Can he repeat the heroics of Joshua and Harrison in winning Olympic gold before turning over to the professional ranks? It would take a brave punter to back against him.