Boxing’s new generation plan for Paris Olympics after golds at Commonwealth Games

·4-min read
Wales’ Rosie Eccles took the light-middleweight gold   (AFP via Getty Images)
Wales’ Rosie Eccles took the light-middleweight gold (AFP via Getty Images)

He did it and it was not easy.

Delicious Orie is the new Commonwealth Games super-heavyweight gold medal winner. The latest in a long and distinguished line of English champions at the sport’s top weight.

Late on Sunday night at the NEC, in front of nearly 5.000 fans, Orie had to win the last round to secure a tight decision over India’s Sagar Sagar. It was hard, bloody and ugly in the last minute as Sagar, cut and tired, hit Orie low repeatedly. The final twenty seconds were so loud that nobody in the ring or the hall heard the final bell. And then it was over and then there were tears and joy. It was gold, England’s second gold in the boxing.

“I never stopped believing – that’s the start, now the journey begins,” said Orie, who was born in Moscow, but moved to Wolverhampton when he was a child.

The reception for the local – he is member at the Jewellery Quarter club just a few miles away – at the medal ceremony led to more tears and howls of delights. Orie fought three times in four nights to win gold. It was a very moving occasions.

Four years ago on the Gold Coast, Rosie Eccles lost a close, close decision to Sandy Ryan in the final; it was heartbreak. There was more misery when the last Olympic qualifier was cancelled in May of 2020; the Olympics had been scrapped a few days earlier. Eccles refused to drop the Olympic dream and lived on hope and rumour until just six weeks before last summer’s Olympics. “I never gave up – then it was over,” she said. It was wrong, she deserved an Olympic place.

On Sunday, she won the gold at under-70 kilos, boxed a dream and started to plan for Paris in two years’ time. “It has been a long, long journey and now I’m getting closer,” Eccles said. Eccles was ruthless and stopped Australian Kaye Scott in two rounds.

Scottish boxers had never won three golds at one Games; in 2014 in Glasgow they won two and in Edinburgh in 1986 they had three losers in the final and no winner. This year, it has to be said, it felt different from before the first bell on the opening day. In just bout two, Reese Lynch stopped his man in one round and then, four fights later, he won gold at light-welterweight.

Lynch had the first of his five fights on the opening day; wins over India, Canada and Junias Jonas, the defending champion from Namibia, put him in the final. Lynch was cut and tired but still won 4-1 over veteran Louis Colin of Mauritius for gold. He is in a great position, at just 21, for the Paris Olympics.

A few hours earlier, in back to back glory, Sam Hickey won at middleweight and Sean Lazzerini won at light-heavyweight. Three golds, a new record and a new-look Scottish team.

Lazzerini, who has been mentioned with various professional promoters, and Hickey might have a problem with weight when the Olympic qualifiers start. The middleweight division, one of boxing’s oldest and most iconic divisions, has been dropped from the Olympics. It means that light-middles, middles and light-heavies have to squeeze into just two divisions. It will be tough on the boxers.

Scotland’s Sean Lazzerini is the light-heavyweight champion (AFP via Getty Images)
Scotland’s Sean Lazzerini is the light-heavyweight champion (AFP via Getty Images)

Eccles, meanwhile, will benefit from a reshuffle of the women’s weights when her 70-kilo division is replaced by a 66-kilo division. “I only weighed 67 this morning,” she told me after winning her gold. I was delighted, I like a sense of justice.

John Conlan, the Northern Irish coach, arrived with a mixed side of experienced, seasoned campaigners and kids with promise and dreams. They finished with five golds, a ridiculous return. The brother and sister team of Aidan and Michaela Walsh, both silver medal winners four years ago, each won gold. At lightweight, Amy Broadhurst, added gold to the World championship gold she won earlier this year in Istanbul. Broadhurst might just be the best female amateur in the world. Conlan’s other two winners are babies; Dylan Eagleson at bantam is only 19 and Jude Gallagher at featherweight is just 20; Gallagher had a bye in both the semi-final and final.

Still, they can both really fight. They look about twelve, by the way.

An hour or so before Orie fought, Lewis Williams completed a sensible quartet of fights to take England’s first gold, a smart win at heavyweight. On the Gold Coast, the English boxers won six golds, but on the Gold Coast it was a vastly more experienced and tougher squad. Also, Tokyo silver medal winner, Ben Whittaker, left the Gold Coast without a medal; a lot can happen in the life of a young boxer between the Commonwealth Games and the two years before the Olympics. Some of the losers can become big winners.

Now, the gradual build for Paris and the Olympic qualifiers takes over. The men and women in charge of GB Boxing and the men and women in the ring have to start plotting, planning and dreaming big.

Delicious Orie has the Commonwealth gold and is thinking of the other gold. “This is just the start,” he said. I believe him.