THE GB team warmed up for the Olympic qualifier in June at the Belgrade Winner tournament in Serbia, finishing with three gold medallists and one silver medallist after the finals on April 27, as well as a cluster of bronze medallists.
In the super-heavyweight final Frazer Clarke collided with Maksim Babanin, the Russian who beat Tyson Fury many years ago and an old rival of Frazer’s. At the 2019 World championships Babanin’s team contentiously had a medal winning bout against Clarke overturned on appeal. But Clarke extracted some revenge when he outscored the Russian to win their final. It also netted him the Boxer of the Tournament prize.
Ben Whittaker won light-heavyweight gold in Serbia and the Best Technical Boxer award. In the 81kgs final he well beat Kazakhstan’s Nurbek Oralbay. This was Whittaker’s first tournament since the 2019 Worlds.
Welsh welterweight Rosie Eccles was eliminated from the Olympic qualifier last year. She is in form now, beating Uzbekistan’s Navbakhor Khamidova to win the 69kgs final.
Flyweight Charley Davison remains in contention in the upcoming European qualification event, that will be in Paris from June 4-8, and got some valuable bouts in at this competition. She reached the 51kgs final but was edged out by host nation boxer Nina Radovanovic.
A Serbian boxer who served up a big shock was Vahid Abasov. He received a unanimous decision win over World silver medallist Pat McCormack at 69kgs. Pat’s twin brother Luke McCormack also had to settle for a bronze medal, he lost a split decision to Russia’s Artur Subhankulov at 63kgs.
Young star Caroline Dubois met defeat for the first time. She lost a split decision to Italy’s Simona Bustamante at lightweight.
Heavyweight Cheavon Clarke secured a bronze medal. He met Russia’s Timur Gamzatov, who outpointed the Gravesend boxer unanimously.
Peter McGrail and Galal Yafai, who have both already qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, reached the semi-finals but were withdrawn then as a precautionary measure.
“All boxers have performed superbly and been a credit to GB Boxing,” said performance director Rob McCracken. “The priority at this tournament was to ensure the boxers got some good quality competition after such a long lay-off, so to see them deliver a number of excellent performances and return with 10 medals has been a big success. We ought to have had more boxers in the finals, but overall it has been a very useful week that has enabled the team to secure some good action and get back into the routine of competing.
“The focus now is on the Olympic qualifier and making sure the boxers are well prepared and in the best possible shape to secure their place at Tokyo 2021.”
A Scottish team also entered the tournament. Middleweight Sam Hickey performing well makes him one to watch. He beat Kazakhstan’s Yermakhan Zhakpekov unanimously to advance to the final, losing there to Russia’s Nikita Voronov. The Russian had eliminated GB’s middleweight Lewis Richardson on a split decision at the start of the tournament. Welterweight Stephen Newns secured a win over Russia in his first bout of the tournament, beating Russia’s Mukhammad Kurbanov on a split decision. Newns came up against Pat McCormack after that, conceding a unanimous verdict.
Also at 69kgs Tyler Jolly met Kazakhstan’s Ablaikhan Zhussupov, an Olympian and World medallist, only being edged out on a split decision.
Featherweight Matty McHale reached the quarter-final, where Kyrgyzstan’s Akylbek Esenbek overcame him on a unanimously decision.
At 63kgs, after stopping Montenegro’s Remzo Ikovic in the third round, Robbie McKechnie boxed a Russian, losing unanimously to Artur Subhankulov. At the same weight countryman Reese Lynch was beaten on a split decision Lounes Hamraou of France.