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Lauren Price stages miracle comeback to win Olympic semi-final

Lauren Price
Lauren Price beats her great rival Nouchka Fontijn on the finest of margins to reach the middleweight final at the Olympic Games

LAUREN PRICE is many things. She’s quick, she’s clever, she’s a European and World champion. She also has character.

She showed that in her Olympic semi-final against Nouchka Fontijn at the Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo on Friday (August 6).

In a three round contest, a point deduction can be a near-impossible deficit to overturn. It looked that way for Price, who had lost the first round and then had a point taken off for holding. That might have been a touch harsh, although the referee had warned her a couple of times previously. But to outside observers it appeared to confine Price to defeat in the middleweight semi-final.

Not to Lauren and her corner though.

Fontijn, taller and composed in the first round, had waited for Price to step in, launching counters as the Welsh southpaw attacked. The two great rivals know each other’s style inside out – this bout was their seventh meeting. But Price steadied herself, took the second-round point loss in her stride and came out for the third unfazed and looking to win. She boxed her best round in the final stanza, quickening up her footwork, sliding in to land clean work, hitting the strong Dutchwoman with her left cross.

At the finish one judge had her ahead, two had the boxers level at 28-28 with the point off. It meant they had to choose whose work overall they preferred. Both selected Price. It meant Lauren won the only way she could, by a split decision on the finest of margins. It was an incredible comeback to book a place in the Olympic final.

“She started a lot quicker than I thought she would after seeing her previous fights, where she lost her first round. I got back to the corner 3-2 down which is not too far, it’s not 5-0,” Price said. “I got a point off but I’ve been there a number of times with her. It’s nothing new to me because of our styles as she is tall, I’m short. It’s always a bit of a scrap of a fight. I didn’t panic too much about that.

“I knew I had to give it my all in the last round and that’s when I got into my rhythm and I felt I won the last round quite comfortably, just picking my shots. I am just over the moon to be in the final.”

“It’s always nip and tuck between me and Nouchka, but I dug deep in that final round and happy days,” she added. “We know each other inside out so it’s always going to be close. I take my hat off to her. She has just said to me that she’s retired now so I wish her a happy retirement.”

On Sunday (August 8) China’s Qian Li in the Olympic middleweight final at about 6.45am UK time. “She’s a good girl, won the Worlds in India in 2018. We’ve never boxed each other but she’s quite similar to my style, quite fast hands and feet so it’s going to be an interesting one. Number one and number two seed in the final,” Prices said. “It’s always been my dream to get to an Olympic Games and then to medal so I couldn’t quite believe it. I’m into the final now and it’s dream come true, but I’m not stopping. My main aim is to go and win that gold and I’m going to give it my all.”

Cuba’s Julio La Cruz won his second Olympic gold medal, in a second weight class. He put on a consummate performance to befuddle Russia’s Muslim Gadzhimagomedov. The Russian has been on a magnificent winning run, he hasn’t lost a major tournament since 2017. But La Cruz’s movement, his footwork and superb reactions to slip shots, were too much for him. The Cuban outboxed Gadzhimagomedov, securing the first two rounds with judicious counter-punches and he could then see out the last to make sure of his unanimous decision triumph.

America’s Keyshawn Davis and Andy Cruz, yet another sensational Cuban, set up a mouthwatering 63kgs final. Davis unanimously outpointed strong Armenian Hovhannes Bachkov in their semi-final, while Cruz took a clear win over Harry Garside, handing the Australian a count on his way to a unanimous decision win. Davis and Cruz will box in the gold medal match on Sunday (August 8) at 6.45am UK time.

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