The impending Olympic lockdown weighed heavy on the mind of Galal Yafai when he entered the ring in London last month seeking the win that would confirm his place at Tokyo 2020.
The qualifying tournament was only hours from being abandoned and the Birmingham flyweight knew defeat to Russia’s Rasul Saliev would likely hurl his dreams of reaching his second Games into a months-long purgatory.
Yafai duly got the job done before the inevitable shutdown arrived – and now has plenty of time on his hands in his Solihull apartment to consider his build-up to Tokyo which has now been put on hold for 12 months.
Yafai told the PA news agency: “I was told on my way to the fight that the tournament was going to be done after this, so it put a bit more pressure on me to go out there and finish it off.
“I knew if anything happened it could be months before I got another chance, and I could have been sitting at home now not having qualified, wondering what is going to happen.
“I’m gutted for all my team-mates who never got that chance. We’ve been through a training camp in Kazakhstan and to go through all that training then get told at the last minute that it’s all for nothing.”
Yafai’s team-mate Peter McGrail was the second British boxer to qualify before the tournament was suspended. It is envisaged that it will resume at the same stage when it it is safe to do so.
Yafai had squeezed into the GB squad for the 2016 Games in Rio and was beaten by the eventual bronze medallist in his second bout, but his subsequent consistency, including Commonwealth Games title on the Gold Coast, has seen him emerge as one of the strongest prospects for a medal in Tokyo.
However, for the time being at least, Yafai finds himself severely restricted in his training regime, and resorting to long PlayStation battles with his brothers Kal and Gamal, who have had their respective professional careers put on hold.
“I’ve got no facilities at all so I can’t really do much apart from body circuits and morning runs, and GB Boxing are sending me a bike,” added Yafai.
“My brothers are locked down in their own places as well so we’re trying to keep positive playing FIFA.
“It’s a real frustration that we’ve got to wait another 12 months for Tokyo, but it’s got to be put in perspective. At least I’ve booked my place there, and we’re all in the same boat.”