British boxers to restart Olympic preparations after ‘very challenging’ year

Mark Staniforth, PA Olympics Correspondent

Three hundred and twenty-five days after the last Tokyo prospect had his arm raised in victory, Great Britain’s boxing squad head to Hungary on Friday to restart their quest to reach this year’s delayed Olympics.

The eight-strong squad set to compete in the Bocskai tournament in Debrecen includes Lewis Richardson, the last Briton in action before the Olympic qualifying tournament was pulled prematurely in March, and world champion Lauren Price, whose inactivity stretches even further.

Middleweight Richardson beat Victor Yoka in their bout in London, already in the knowledge that rising coronavirus rates would cause the cancellation of the tournament, and postpone his bid to seal his place in Tokyo indefinitely.

Boxing Road to Tokyo 2020 Olympic Qualifying Event – Day Three – Copper Box Arena
Lewis Richardson has seen his Olympic dream put on hold (Adam Davy/PA)

Richardson told the PA news agency: “We found out at 4pm on the day I was boxing that it was going to get postponed. It was a really weird situation, especially since I’d come into the tournament as a late replacement anyway.

“It’s been a very challenging time. Boxing is a really difficult sport at the best of times, never mind when you chuck a world pandemic into the equation. But we have been really fortunate in that we have still been able to train.”

After 11 weeks of being forced to train at home, Britain’s elite squad were allowed to return to their base at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield in June, where they have tried to put the ongoing uncertainty to the back of their mind.

European Games 2019 – Day Six
Lauren Price has not fought competitively since her world title win (Martin Rickett/PA)

Price did not get the chance to start her qualifying bid in London, meaning she has not stepped into a competition ring since she won her world title in December 2019.

“I am really looking forward to stepping back in the ring and getting used to the whole process of competing again,” said Price.

“We have had some good training camps and I have been able to do a lot of sparring, but nothing quite matches the feel of competition and the nerves that come with that.”

Uncertainly still surrounds the qualifier, after the International Olympic Committee confirmed last week that the tournament, provisionally scheduled to resume in London in April, would no longer do so.

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