AT last, after far too long a wait, amateur boxing has clarity. It will have an Olympic future, even if the role of governing body AIBA in that future is currently uncertain. The International Olympic Committee set up a boxing task force to administer the qualifying events for Tokyo 2020 and the boxing tournament itself in Japan, due to concerns about AIBA’s governance, finance and officiating.
It meant though that it was only this year, very late in the Olympic cycle really, that there was confirmation on what divisions were going to be contested and that some of the weights were changing. Male categories are being reduced from 10 to eight, with women’s divisions increasing from three to five. The competition rules will remain essentially the same, though now it has been decided that the judges’ scores will be revealed after each round. After a litany of scoring controversies none of the officials from Rio 2016 will be used. But after seemingly endless political wrangling, in 2020 the boxing itself can re-occupy the limelight (even if the Russian boxing federation has threatened to boycott the next Olympics if doping sanctions against representing the country aren’t overturned. That will be another developing story.).
For British boxing 2019 itself has been a banner year. As performance director Rob McCracken celebrated his 10 years at the helm, for the current squad there was success across the board at European Games and World championships for both the men’s and women’s teams.
At the European Games UK boxers won seven medals, as well as six medals at the men’s and women’s World championships combined.
There was also an additional women’s European championships thrown in to keep things even busier. International newcomers Demi Jade Resztan, at non-Olympic weight 49kgs, and Karriss Artingstall, at 57kgs, were standouts with European silver and then World bronze medals. Artingstall’s power punching was particularly impressive. This was her breakthrough year.
But the female boxer of 2019 has to be Wales’ Lauren Price. It is a small, elite group of British boxers who have struck gold at the Worlds and Price joined that number in October, becoming Wales’ first amateur World champion. It was not without incident. She was initially announced the loser after a close final in which she had seemingly outboxed Nouchka Fontijn. However Price was then the beneficiary of a controversial new appeals process that saw the bout reviewed and the decision reversed. Super-heavyweight Frazer Clarke had previously missed out on a World medal after his quarter-final win was surprisingly overturned in Russia.
Price had also been superb when winning the European Games earlier this year, beating Dutch rival Fontijn in that final too.
Her GB team-mate Pat McCormack was outstanding when he won the welterweight gold medal at the same European Games in Minsk. McCormack is the male boxer of the year for Boxing News. After previously winning a European championship silver, McCormack swept to that European Games gold medal in style. He stopped Lorenzo Sotomayor, a Cuban boxing for Azerbaijan, showing real power in the semi-final and then beat Russia’s Khariton Agrba in the final. “[Sotomayor] won silver at the Olympics and he won the European Games so he was a top fighter. He was up there, he’s done it. It was good to not only beat him but stop him. It shows where I am now,” Pat said.
He continued his run into the World championships, in fact he was unbeaten all year until he reached the World final. There he met Andrei Zamkovoy and while boxing the Russian in Russia Pat suffered a bad cut early in the bout. The contest was stopped and went to the cards where Zamkovoy took a technical decision.
‘I think I am capable of winning the Olympics. Christmas this year is cancelled’Pat McCormack
“I caught a couple of shots, that switched us on. I got into my groove at the end of the first round then cut in the second. I got cut, it was all over. What can you do?” McCormack tells Boxing News. “Obviously I wanted to get the gold. It would have been nice to go the full distance, just to see who actually did win. Obviously it got stopped after the first round, we didn’t get to have a proper fight in the World final.
“He’s good, he’s a top fighter, he’s been around [for years] but I think I’ve got the beating of him and I think next time I fight him, I’ll beat him.”
Things can still get better – the run up to the Olympics proper begins in the new year with the first qualification event in London at the Copper Box in March. McCormack, Price and the rest of the British team will be looking at Tokyo 2020 with high hopes.
“I’ve had a good year,” McCormack said. “I obviously won the European Games, got gold there, went to the Worlds, got silver there, only got beat on a cut in the final. So I didn’t really get beat properly, do you know what I mean? Two biggest medals. Hopefully get a bigger one next year.
“I’ll be very confident going into it but I’ll make sure I get a good training camp behind me so I’m on top form. And I think I am capable of winning the Olympics.”
“Christmas,” he adds cheerfully, “is cancelled this year.”