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The Croft twins shine at Welsh Elite championships

Ioan Croft at the Welsh Elite championships
WABA
Gareth Jones on the boxers who impressed in the finals of the Welsh Elite championships

The Croft twins from Cardigan celebrated their last weekend as teenagers with a Welsh Elite double before an enthusiastic crowd at the Sport Wales National Centre on November 26, the first such competition since 2019.

Southpaw Ioan, fresh from a gold medal at the Golden Gong in Skopje, won three straight 5-0 decisions to take the honours at light-middle, forcing a first-round standing count in seeing off Lewys Parfitt (Maerdy).

The Rhondda man was always competitive, but Croft had that bit more, gradually bringing his backhand left into play and leaving no doubt about the outcome.

The orthodox brother, Garan, had a tougher task up at middle, but came through with a 4-1 split over Rhoose talent Taylor Bevan. Both youngsters had stopped their semi-final opponents.

Bevan, a GB Youth gold medalist two years ago, kept busy with a stiff left, while Garan worked well with both fists. At the end of a contest which lived up to expectation, the vote went in the West Walian’s favour.

The biggest upset came at heavyweight, where defending champion Samson Leyson – a fair description, given there was no event last year – found himself outworked and out-sped by nimble southpaw Cassius Hunt (Cwmavon Hornets).

Leyson was without his mentor at the Prizefighter gym in Carmarthen, Kevin Evans – the first Briton to medal at the World championships is recovering from a hip operation – and lacked focus. The unheralded Hunt, who had eliminated the experienced Dylan Hayward in the last four, deserved his unanimous success.

They say it’s never too late to chase your dreams and Lana Cooper (Torfaen Warriors) is eyeing a Commonwealth Games spot after claiming the women’s light-welter prize with a whitewash of game Alexandra Bridges, from Tonyrefail.

Cooper, now 34, and back after an injury-hit decade which brought 10 straight losses in the pro ring, boxed beautifully before receiving her trophy from Olympic queen Lauren Price, who is set to join the paid ranks herself next year.

In the only other female final, Torfaen lightweight Jade Gitsham, twice a winner for Afan Spartans, ceded command of the ring centre to Chloe Morris (DJ Boxing) and dropped a 4-1 verdict.

Among others with next year’s festivities in Birmingham in mind, 18-year-old Cardiffian Scott Jones (Highfields) underlined his potential with three unanimous triumphs, culminating in an excellent light-welter final with gritty southpaw Joshua Meli (Cwmavon Hornets).

The North’s only victor on the night – they did pick up two other titles via walkovers – was Llandudno’s Richard Williams, who shipped a solid right early on before finishing strongly to earn a 4-1 vote over useful Stacy Pearson (Afan Spartans) at welterweight.

Pearson’s clubmate, Kristian Hynes, produced the only stoppage when he forced four standing counts on local rival Ronan Lamont (Port Talbot) before the feather final was ended in the third.

Somerton Rascals lightweight Zac Hickman controlled matters throughout and was rewarded with a unanimous victory over Premier’s Korben Crocker, whose older brother Ben was winning on a pro bill the other side of the city.

In a cruiserweight battle of the beards,Aaron Bird (Port Talbot), a champion in 2017, sneaked in 3-2 over RAF man Emyr Parry, while special credit goes to Caerphilly light-heavy Mark Davies. In a tournament plagued by pull-outs, he nevertheless had to box four times, wrapping things up with a 4-1 split over aggressive Maelor southpaw Gary Richards.

Finals Results
51:
Jake Dodd (Shotton) walkover. 52: Helen Jones (Premier) walkover. 54: Kristian Hynes (Afan Spartans) stpd Ronan Lamont (Port Talbot) 3rd. 57: Billy Unsworth (Shotton) walkover. 60: Zac Hickman (Somerton Rascals) outptd Korben Crocker (Premier) unan, Chloe Morris (DJ Boxing) outptd Jade Gitsham (Torfaen Warriors) split. 63: Scott Jones (Highfields) outptd Joshua Meli (Cwmavon Hornets) unan, Lana Cooper (Torfaen Warriors) outptd Alexandra Bridges (Tonyrefail) unan. 67: Richard Williams (Llandudno) outptd Stacy Pearson (Afan Spartans) split. 71: Ioan Croft (Cardigan) outptd Lewys Parfitt (Maerdy) unan. 75: Garan Croft (Cardigan) outptd Taylor Bevan (Rhoose) split. 80: Mark Davies (Caerphilly) outptd Gary Richards (Maelor) split. 86: Aaron Bird (Port Talbot) outptd Emyr Parry (RAF) split. 92: Cassius Hunt (Cwmavon Hornets) outptd Samson Leyson (Prizefighter) split). 92&: Josh Taylor (Pontypool) walkover.  

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