THE 57kgs featherweight divisions, for both the men and the women, will be intensely competitive at the Tokyo Olympic Games. But Great Britain has medal contenders in both weight classes. Liverpool’s Peter McGrail has been one of the most consistent international performers for GB for the last four years. He comes into the Tokyo Games motivated after an unexpected loss at the European qualifier, once he’d secured his place at these Olympics.
“I didn’t perform to the best of my ability. I think the best version of me would win the fight comfortably against him [Hungary’s Roland Galos]. It’s fired me up for the Olympics more,” he told Boxing News. “I think it might have been a bit of blessing in disguise.”
“Everybody going to the Olympics, they’ve earned their spot,” he continued. “You can’t underestimate no one because you get a shock.
“I’m going to be in the best shape I’ve ever been in and do everything right. I’ve done everything right up till now and I’m just looking forward to my first fight and performing in front of the world watching and showcasing my skills on the biggest stage of all.
“I’m fully focused more than ever.”
McGrail is one of the leading lights of an excellent British Olympic squad. But being part of such a quality team brings its own pressures. Karriss Artingstall secured her place in the women’s 57kgs division after losing in the quarter-finals of the qualifier but winning an Olympic box-off at that tournament in Paris.
“I found my range easy [in her opening bout], I was comfortable. I was relaxed. Watching the rest of the team then go on and box the next day, because I had a rest day after that one, they all went on and boxed in the qualification bouts. I think just watching everyone was obviously really exciting and obviously I was over the moon for them all. I was so excited to watch them all qualify. The team was absolutely on fire. I got back to the hotel room afterwards and it all hit me. I was just overwhelmed by it all. I was like I’ve now got to go and do that tomorrow. I’ve got to finish the team off. I think because everyone performed so well, I was like I need to seal the deal and just complete the team,” she explained. “My head just wasn’t in the right space, I was overthinking things. It was the worst I’ve been in a very long time, since beginning boxing really… It reminded me a bit of them days where I just overthought struggled to sleep a little bit, just overthought it all really. I woke up the next day and I was still in that mindset. I still hadn’t shaken myself out of it and I was warming up and I just didn’t feel like Karriss. I didn’t feel like I was going to perform at all. I got in the ring… I didn’t really start performing until towards the end of the fight.”
But she set herself right for the box-off. Winning that has freed her of those mental constraints. She goes into the Tokyo Games determined to make her mark. “I like to apply the pressure and make them feel the pressure,” she told Boxing News. “There’s no chance they can beat me, if I’m on my A game. The pressure I apply – I believe I hit rather hard for 57 kilo girl. My hands are fast, my feet are fast, if I’m just on it, I’m going to unbelievably hard to beat and I truly believe that.
“Anything can happen in boxing, it’s the pinnacle of the sport so anybody’s going to be there to win. Every single fight is going to be 50-50. It’s who wants it more, who’s prepped better and who’s the better boxer on the day.”