GREAT BRITAIN’S Pat McCormack was superb as he won the welterweight gold medal at the European Games at the Sports Palace Uruchie in Minsk, Belarus.
He met Russia’s Khariton Agrba in the final on Saturday (June 29). Sliding on to the back foot, he at once marked out the Russian with a long right hook. McCormack worried the southpaw with tapping jabs and a left hook, before darting a straight one-two through. He got into a rhythm with those long straight shots, landing his right to the body then hitting the head with another one-two.
Agrba waded into him with hooks but didn’t manage to unsettle the Birtley boxer. Pat waited, then landed a hard left hook, bringing the Russian on to the shot. Agrba managed to burst through occasionally, but Pat was in control in the first round.
The Russian though started the second with solid hooks breaking through. McCormack though hammered an excellent right uppercut through Agrba’s defences, leaving the Russian less willing to charge forward.
McCormack snapped his right cross through the middle and he remained sharp and focused in the last round, jabbing over the Russian’s right lead and shaking him with a left hook. He knocked Agrba back from the inside and sent that right cross blasting through again. A unanimous decision and the gold medal went to McCormack.
He was equally sensational in the semi-final when he knocked down and stopped Azerbaijan’s Olympic silver medallist, Lorenzo Sotomayor. McCormack adjusted to the spidery reach of the Cuban born boxer. Pat showed his variety of punches, moved back well to let Sotomayor miss. He turned up the pressure on the Azeri representative in the third round, sending in hard, straight combinations. The increased aggression left McCormack a touch open, but it paid off richly. Sotomayor blundered on to a left hook and the shot flung him off his feet. Pat ruthlessly closed out the contest, right and left hooks hit the body. He picked out head shots and then shook up the Azeri with a heavy overarm right hook. A spearing straight left struck Sotomayor into the ropes and with him losing his footing and balance, the referee waved it off.
His quarter-final had been another unanimous decision victory over Monaco’s Hugo Micallef.
“I’m over the moon,” McCormack said after the tournament. “I came here for the gold and I’ve got it so I’m a happy man. It was a good fight against a strong Russian but I kept my composure and picked the better shots. Commonwealth gold was a good one but European Games gold is even better, it’s my biggest achievement so far.”
“I have got the World Championships, the Olympic qualifiers and then Tokyo 2020. I want to medal at the Worlds and the Olympics so that’s my next two goals,” he added. “This is my fourth multi-sport Games now and I’m used to it so hopefully I can push on and get a gold at the Olympics.”
Welsh middleweight Lauren Price joined Pat as a gold medallist. She delivered excellent victories in both the final, where Price defeated Olympic silver medallist Nouchka Fontijin on a split decision, and the semi-final, where the Briton unanimously outscored Russia’s Darima Sandakova.
Price began her campaign in Minsk unanimously outpointing Ireland’s Aoife O’Rourke, who had beaten the host nation’s Belarus’ Viktoryia Kebikava on a split decision.
Ben Whittaker was unfortunate not to join his GB team mates at the summit of the podium. Loren Alfonso Dominguez, boxing for Azerbaijan, managed to edge him out of the 81kgs final on a split decision. “I thought I had done enough to nick it but you can’t just do enough to nick it you have to win convincingly. I enjoyed it and thought I got the cleaner shots but I’m not going to complain and the next time I have to make it more convincing,” Whittaker said.
He won his silver medal after unanimously outpointing Armenia’s Gor Nersesyan. A unanimous decision over Austria’s Umar Dzambekov, then a split decision victory over Germany’s Abdulrahman Abu Lubdeh in the quarter-finals guaranteed him a medal. “Every time I put a Great Britain vest on it’s a dream come true. I remember watching the first European Games and thinking even making it to the next one would be an achievement and I’ve made it on to the podium. but me being a bit greedy I wanted it to be a gold medal. Looking back in a few months I’m sure I’ll be happy with the achievement but right now I am very disappointed,” Whittaker said.
English 91kgs Cheavon Clarke secured the first medal for the GB boxing team at the European Games when he unanimously outscored Holland’s Peter Mullenberg in their June 25 quarter-final. But in the semi-final he lost to host nation heavyweight Uladzislay Smiahlikau on a split decision.
Britain’s Galal Yafai had a strong showing at 52kgs, even if he was held to a bronze medal. Yafai, the brother of professional world champion Kal, unanimously outscored Ukraine’s Dmytro Zamotayev in the quarter-finals, although Bulgaria’s Daniel Asenov received a split decision against him at the semi-final stage.
GB’s 56kgs Peter McGrail also reached the final four, beating Albania’s Krenar Zeneli on a unanimous decision. But he lost a split decision to Irish rival Kurt Walker in the semi-final.
Walker, who had taken a good unanimous win over France’s Samuel Kistohurry in the quarter-finals, would go on to win gold. He unanimously outpointed Ukraine’s tough Mykola Butsenko in the final.
“I actually can’t describe how good I feel. The game plan, everything was perfect. I want to thank the coaches, the backroom staff, everyone for it,” Kurt said. “It’s the best moment in my life, 100 per cent, by a mile.”
Pat’s twin brother Luke McCormack was also limited to a bronze medal. In the 64kgs semi-final he lost a unanimous decision to France’s Sofiane Oumiha, an Olympic silver medallist. In a preliminary bout Luke had outscored Hungary’s Milan Fodor on a split decision and then in the quarter-final took a split points win over Ukraine’s Yaroslav Khartsyz.
At lightweight the McCormacks’ Birtley club mate Calum French lost a split decision when he boxed Armenia’s Karen Tonakanyan, after previously outpointing Italy’s Francesco Maietta also on a split.
Georgia’s Sakhil Alakhverdovi eliminated Scottish light-flyweight Aqeel Ahmed on a split decision. But Irish 49kgs Regan Daly beat Spain’s Martin Molina Salvador on a split decision in their quarter-final. Daly had to settle for bronze when the eventual champion, Armenia’s Artur Hovhannisyan, overcame him on a split decision in their semi-final.
Ireland’s James McGivern lost a unanimous decision to Armenia’s strong 64kgs Hovhannes Bachkov but his middleweight team-mate Michael Nevin beat Turkey’s Serhat Guler on a split decision to reach the semi-final. There however Italy’s Salvatore Cavallaro halted him in the first round.
Welterweight Grainne Walsh also made sure of a medal when she defeated Finland’s Elina Gustafsson on a unanimous decision. She took home a bronze medal after losing a split decision to Poland’s Karolina Koszewska.
World champion Kellie Harrington came through the lightweight quarter-finals with a split decision over Italy’s tricky Irma Testa at 60kgs. She took another good win in the semi-final when she beat Sweden’s Agnes Alexiusson on a unanimous decision. But she was unable to contest the final due to a hand injury.
At 57kgs Michaela Walsh did box in her final. She beat Germany’s Ornella Wahner on a split decision in the last eight and then defeated Russia’s Daria Abramova on another split. But Bulgaria’s experienced Stanimira Petrova beat Walsh on a split decision in the final. “I am absolutely heartbroken to get another silver,” Walsh reflected, “but I feel I have announced myself at this weight and I am determined to go one better next year.”