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Sammy Lee and Mickey McDonagh, Wales’ new hopes

Sammy Lee
Action Images/REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
Sammy Lee and Mickey McDonagh tell Matt Bevan how they're now pushing for recognition

MICKEY McDONAGH believes that his recent return following a hand injury will see him peak at the right time, as he enters his first senior World championships in Russia next month. The 20-year-old Welshman will travel out to Ekaterinburg alongside his fellow countryman Sammy Lee, as both look to stake their claim for a spot at the Olympics in Tokyo next Summer.

“I’ve been out of the ring for a long time. I feel refreshed and have been back sparring for three weeks, where I’ve been doing well, so I do think that when I get out to Russia, I’ll be hitting top form at exactly the right time,” McDonagh said.

Now the new weight classes have been finalised ahead of Tokyo 2020, McDonagh is one of the beneficiaries. He will box in the new lightweight division, which instead of remaining at 60kg, will be at 63kgs, as the light-welterweight division, previously 64kg, has been disbanded. McDonagh is certain the extra weight will help him, as he looks to build on the bronze medal he won in Australia at last year’s Commonwealth Games. The impressive McDonagh, who has had plenty of success through the age-groups now believes the time is right for him to make his mark at senior level.

“With the new weights being what they are, I’ve been able to in essence stay at lightweight, which was 60kgs but is now 63kgs, so I’m one of the fighters who has got lucky and can carry some extra weight,” he explained. “The Commonwealth Games helped me grow as a fighter. Sometimes back home, it’s hard to keep focus, but over in Australia there was no chance of that happening, as everyone is watching you. It’s an important competition to get under your belt before you fight at the Olympics. 

“I’ve been boxing since I was eight and I’ve been in and around the program in Sheffield for three years, when I was in the Youth teams. But I’ve impressed all the way through, winning GB Championships and coming back from Australia with a bronze medal from the Commonwealth Games.

“Now it is all set up for me and I’m going to take advantage. I’m not the favourite to go to Tokyo, but there is always someone who makes a late burst and gets a spot in the team. I believe that I might be the man to do that this time around.”

Welsh light-heavyweight Sammy Lee is hoping to build on an exciting start to life at senior level. Lee was handed an opportunity to demonstrate his enormous potential at the Commonwealth Games in Australia last year and did not disappoint, leaving the Gold Coast with a gold medal around his neck.

 “I’ve been to the Youth World championships, but this is a whole different ball game without the head guards on. I’m genuinely excited to get out to Russia and fight the best in the world. My sights are set on winning gold and getting on that plane to the Olympics in Tokyo next year,” he told Boxing News. “The Commonwealth Games in Australia was my first ever senior competition, so I was really thrown in at the deep end. But I took the chance with both hands and I left with the gold medal. That was just a glimpse of how good I am.”

Lee is set to go head-to-head with Ben Whittaker, who recently stepped up from middleweight and won a silver medal at the European Games in Minsk. “I followed my brother into the gym and I never looked back. Since coming up to Sheffield though, I have discovered another level. You walk in the doors every day and see the pictures of all the people on the wall who have won medals at previous Olympics and it drives you on,” Lee said. “There is a good competition for places, not just in my weight, but in all the weights. Obviously, I’m going out there for Wales and Ben is already being pushed for Team GB. We’re both looking to get that spot and I’m very confident that it’s going to go my way.

“I just have to keep performing how I know I can and keep bringing back those gold medals for Wales.”

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