While the English cricket team struggled on the recent Ashes tour, British boxers are having a much more successful time on Australia’s Gold Coast as the search for Commonwealth gold enters its second week:
At 49kg, Galal Yafai is hot favourite to take gold. Having beaten former Olympic opponent Simplice Fotsala in his opening bout, he now faces Sri Lankan opposition in the semis in Thiwanka Ranasinghe. Scotland’s Aqeel Ahmed, who lost to Yafai at the Worlds last year, was denied the chance of revenge as he fell to defeat to a classy display from Amit Panghal, who could yet be Yafai’s biggest obstacle as he chases a first major international title
In the 52 kg division, Northern Ireland’s Brendan Irvine and Scotland’s Reece McFadden meet in the last four, having got through their opening two bouts without too much trouble. The Wee Rooster from Belfast, a Rio Olympian and silver medalist at last year’s European Championships will be a slight favourite to win through to the gold medal bout, although McFadden, who beat Andrew Selby en route to bronze at the last Commonwealths, will be no pushover indeed. Gaurav Solanki or Vidanalange Bandara lie in wait for the victor.
Peter McGrail (56kg), perhaps GB’s best talent, will surely be looking to Commonwealth gold to the world bronze and European title he won last year. He has looked very impressive in his two bouts so far (in particular against two-time Olympian Benson Gicharu) and faces Hussamuddin Mohammed for a place in the final. If he wins that, his stiffest test will possibly come in the final against 2017 World Championship competitor Kurt Walker. The Northern Irishman faces Canadian opposition in his semi-final bout in the shape of Eric Basran
The 60kg tournament began with 4 British fighters, and at the medal stages, two remain. NI’s James McGivern faces Manish Kaushik, who accounted for Englishman Calum French in the quarters. Welshman Michael McDonagh faces perhaps the toughest task of his career as he takes on Harry Garside. The Aussie was too much for his Scottish opponent Nathaniel Collins as he secured at least a bronze medal and will be difficult to beat on home soil.
After winning European silver last year in the 64kg division, Wearside’s Luke McCormack now has an opportunity to secure his first major senior title. He has certainly had a difficult run, facing Belfast’s European Games bronze medalist Sean McComb and home favourite Liam Wilson (looking good in the process). It doesn’t get any easier for the Mackem, with his semi-final opponent being the tricky Junias Jonas, Commonweath Games runner-up to Josh Taylor in Glasgow four years ago. Still, as one of GB’s most promising talents, McCormack will still have his eyes firmly set on gold. Scotland’s Robbie McKechnie and William Edwards of Wales crashed out early, to Thomas Blumenfeld and Nkumbu Silunge respectively. Blumenfeld still harbours hope of glory as he faces Jesse Lartey of Ghana for a shot at gold.
Luke’s twin brother Pat is competing a weight class above, at 69kg. He is every bit as talented as his brother, with two European silvers already under his belt, and being very unlucky to be denied a medal at last year’s World Championships in Hamburg. He faces a similarly tough task, with Delhi Commonwealth champion Manoj Kumar of India standing between him and a place in the gold medal bout. NI’s Aidan Walsh fights Fijian Winston Hill (conqueror of Scotland’s Steven Newns) for the right to fight McCormack or Kumar
At 75kg, two British fighters have secured medals, NI’s Steven Donnelly and Scotland’s John Docherty. Their paths are proving very similar, both have beaten Brits on the way to a guaranteed bronze medal (Donnelly scraping past Welshman Kyran Jones, with Docherty pulling off the upset against fancied Englishman Ben Whittaker). Both are now up against continental champions and former Olympians, with Donnelly (an Irish Olympian himself) fighting Vikas Krishnan Yadav of India, and Docherty fighting Cameroon’s Wilfried Ntsengue.
The identity of the four medalists is yet to be decided at 81kg, as the four quarter-final bouts will take place on Thursday. Wales’ Sammy Lee will begin his campaign at this stage against Regarn Simbwa, with the possibility of a bout with Clay Waterman of Australia to come. Waterman edged past Scot Sean Lazzerini in his opening bout and faces Mbachi Kaonga at the last 8 stage.
At 91kg, England’s Cheavon Clarke (who competed in Glasgow four years ago for Jamaica) has guaranteed himself a medal by beating Scott Forrest of Scotland in the last 8. He is up against prodigious Kiwi talent David Nyika who struck gold four years ago in Scotland at the tender age of 18. It promises to be a very even contest, both men put in excellent perfomances against Olympic champion Evgeny Tischenko in major tournaments last year, only to come out on the wrong end of contentious verdicts. Australian Olympian Jason Whateley (who was too much for NI’s Damien Sullivan in the last 8) is also a threat, as he faces Naman Tanwar for a place in the final
Rounding off the men’s programme are the giants at +91kg. England’s Frazer Clarke was a European finalist last year, but, suffering from injury problems, had to withdraw from the World Championships. Having recovered, he beat Australian Toese Vou Siutu in a steady, if not spectacular performance to secure a medal. In the semis he will be up against New Zealand’s Patrick Maitala, who hasl already beaten two Brits in Scotland’s Mitchell Barton and NI’s Stephen McMonagle to reach the last four, with Keddy Agnes and Satish Kumar in the other semi-final
Four years ago was the first time that women’s boxing featured at the Commonwealth Games, with three events, at 51kg, 60kg and 75kg. Now the programme has been expanded, with 6 events, which has given more boxers a chance to shine. One of these is Mary Kom, a 5-time world champion from 45kg to 48 kg. Back at 48kg, the Indian legend is through to the final, having breezed past Megan Gordon of Scotland along the way. In the opposite corner for the gold medal bout is Kristina O’Hara, who scraped past Welsh opponent Lynsey Holdaway in her opening bout at the last 8 stage.
There are two Brits in the medal stages at 51kg- England’s Lisa Whiteside being rewarded for a 3-2 split decision win with a tie against Australian Taylah Robertson. Carly McNaul of NI hopes to face the winner in the final as she prepares for her bout with Christine Ongare in her semi-final bout.
At 57kg, Northern Irishwoman Michaela Walsh (who ran Nicola Adams close in the 51kg final in Glasgow) hopes to add Commonwealth gold to her victory at the EU Championships last year at 54kg. With at least a bronze medal assured, she fights 2012 Olympian Alexis Pritchard for a final spot, against Sabrina Aubin-Boucher (conqueror of Scot Vikki Glover) or Australian Skye Nicolson.
England’s Paige Murney has reached the final four stage at 60kg, having won two bouts (including one against Alanna Nihell of NI) to reach the medal rounds. Standing between her and the final is Yetunde Odnuga, with the other semi-final an all-Antipodean clash between Anja Stridsman of Australia, and New Zealander Troy Garton.
Wales’ Rosie Eccles is up against English rival Sandy Ryan for the inaugural Commonwealth title at 69kg. With a European Games title and world silver under her belt, Ryan has the greater pedigree, but Eccles put in a very good display to beat home favourite Kaye Scott in the last four.
Wales also have interest in the 75kg division, with Lauren Price into the last four with a comfortable win over Rady Gramane. Tammara Thibeault lies in store in the last four, with Caitlin Parker of Australia (who beat England’s 2016 European champion Natasha Gale along the way) a potential final opponent if she can beat Millicent Agboegbulem.