THE stakes were high. Lauren Price was heading into the final of the European Games in Minsk, going up against Nouchka Fontijn, an Olympic medallist and at the time the best boxer in the middleweight division. It was not so long ago that Price was competing at welterweight. Here she was giving away height and weight against an elite opponent who had beaten her before. However the Welsh boxer insists she was unfazed.
“I’m a laid back person anyway, the most laid back person you’ll probably meet. I don’t really think about it, even when I’m obviously up against the big timers, to me it doesn’t matter who I’m in with. I’ll obviously give it my all,” Price told Boxing News. “If anything I felt like obviously she’s been world number one for I don’t know how long. She’s been Olympic silver medallist, she’s been around for years. I was the underdog going in there. To me, if anything, that’s better for me as well. I just thought I’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. And it paid off.
“For me I just use my speed. I knew I was a lot quicker than her. Obviously the tactics for me were hit and move. She is strong and she’s bigger than me, she’s probably a stone heavier than me, but even when we were in close I still feel like I can hold my own with the 75 kilo girls.”
The two had boxed before in the 2018 World championships. “I lost to her in India, 3-2 on a split decision. A lot of people thought it was close and I could have nicked it. Going into [the European Games final], I thought I’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. She came to me a lot more than what she did in India and I picked her off. It worked,” Price continued.
The Welsh middleweight had realised a major ambition. “It was an amazing feeling, obviously first time going and representing Team GB as well so that was a good experience for me,” she said. “Standing on the podium, listening to the national anthem, that was a good moment… I couldn’t get over it. I couldn’t believe I won. Even though I won it, it was unbelievable.”
Price is a versatile athlete. She played football and was a kickboxer to a high standard. That contributed to the resilience she displays now. “From the age of eight I was kickboxing and playing football. I was doing both for Wales,” Lauren said. “I think it’s good to do a bit of everything, over the years it must have helped me.”
“I was kickboxing, my dream was always to go to the Olympics and kickboxing wasn’t in it. I’d done everything I could in kickboxing,” she adds.
Soon after she first went to a boxing club she was sent along to try out for the Welsh squad. “Two weeks later I was going to my first boxing [event]. My first boxing tournament was the Youth World championships, I was winning but I came away with silver. The fight got stopped because I had a nose bleed. It was a points system, I was winning 14-12 I think it was,” she recalled. “A couple of weeks later I turned senior. I went to the Europeans then and I won bronze.
“When you’re a kid, and when you’ve come up, your dream is obviously to be European champion, World champion, Olympic champion. I’ve Commonwealth Gold, European gold, so my next thing now is obviously the Worlds.”
As well as Fontijn, China’s Li Qian will be a leading contender at these upcoming World championships. “I’ve never boxed her but I sparred her in January out in Colorado. Not much in it to be fair, it’s weird because she’s quite similar in style to me, so it would be one of those fights,” Price said. The American 75kgs is decent as well, Naomi [Graham], she got bronze in India with me.”
But Lauren warns, “When I enjoy something I just try and throw my all into it, over the years I’ve trained really hard, some days I train four hours a night.
“I’ve gained experience. I’m just getting better and better. Just keep adding and always improving. Because you’ve got to keep working away at it. I don’t think I’ll ever feel the pressure like that. I’m just enjoying it.”