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5 medalists mirror on the Tokyo Video games

‘This trip is not over yet.’ Steve Bunce has an audience of five Olympic champions and hears their extraordinary stories

It might never have been there – five friends and their five medals, all sharing their Olympic memories of one night. Galal Yafai, Lauren Price, Ben Whittaker, Frazer Clarke and Karriss Artingstall gathered at Cannock’s Bar Sport to relive every summer Olympic boxing fight. Richie Woodhall ran her through every day of boxing brilliantly; the winners, losers, tears, relief and fame. The 2012 team has never done anything like this. Never.

Woodhall let them all slide back into their places, let them lower their vigilance, and get them all to speak openly, warmly, with affection, respect, honesty, and good humor. It’s Woodhall who, as part of his role in the UK setup, puts her on the pads in the high tent. It’s Richie they trust, and he’s got an audience of 500 intimate.

There was talk of professional deals, Peter McGrail’s first fight and Caroline Dubois, who signed with Shane McGuigan. And little Charley Davison is going to Paris. The five are looking at deals – they are all getting professional – and have had meetings, heard promises, received offers. The five have probably all made up their minds. “Getting together gave us the opportunity to exchange notes,” said Clarke. The night was all about Tokyo and their medals and the adoring young fighters and fans on the tables at Scott Murray.

“At events like this, you realize how much a medal means,” says Artingstall. “So many young boxers come to take pictures. It’s amazing. ”All five were amazed at the worship and there seemed to be an endless stream of 13 year old girls from the local boxing clubs.

Clarke told the story of his medal fight, the ugly one with Frenchman Mourad Aliev, and he did it in style. “I don’t like him, he doesn’t like me, we had to be torn apart in sparring, but if he gives me a bum don’t let the referee see it,” said Clarke. “That’s eight cuts in four fights with him; I got to the semi-finals with 18 tricks and against Jalolov, that’s no use. “

Whittaker fully remembered his five fights, a living memory starting with his second fight.

“The first thing I saw against the Egyptian was that he wasn’t very tall and then I saw that he was wearing running shoes,” Ben insisted. “I said to myself: You can’t lose against a guy with running shoes.”

Then it was the Brazilian Keno Machado, and there was pressure for Whittaker: “Before my neighborhood with Machado, I hit the pads and Pat [McCormack] came back. He had just won a medal and I thought, ‘Man, this is real.’ “It was, he won 3-2 for the medal and then it was the dangerous Russian Imam Khataev.

“When I knew I had the medal, I came out of the ring and cried a little,” Whittaker began to explain, but Galal intervened: “A little?”

“Against Khataev, I thought if he can’t hit me, he can’t hit me. It was hard on paper, but it was my easiest fight, ”added Whittaker. “I loved the final, it was a dream come true. I lost to the better man. “

Galal, Frazer and Ben had an early indication of what it means to go home without a medal and lose.

“We saw Cheavon [Clarke] when he lost; he cried and we said we shouldn’t let that happen. We wanted medals, ”said Whittaker.

“That man,” said Clarke, grabbing the microphone and pointing at Ben. “He did it all with one arm. One arm, with two he would have become an Olympic champion. ”Medical stories and Olympic glories, stories like that; they’re not excuses at the Olympics, they’re just part of the story.

“I lost and it’s not nice to talk about,” said Artingstall. “I’m not going to argue, she went ahead and won gold.” The finer details show that Karriss would have been in the final if a judge had only rated one round differently. And she would have won that. These are edges that make a fighter, don’t break a fighter.

Lauren Price was royalty at Cannock, and that’s not often said to be true. She went through her semifinals with Nouchka Fontijn in graphical detail.

“You never know how it’ll go with her,” Price said. “It’s always dirty. I lost a point. She makes it dirty. I had to stay away, I had to box and use my feet. ”She did, she reached the final, but the real final was Fontijn; it was tight, tough and that’s how you should win Olympic gold.
And then there was Galal’s series of fights, a brilliant sequence, five individual classics, everyone fought as if it were their last. Big Fraze was the closest witness and his version is the one I prefer.

“Every day the coaches went over the tactics with him,” said Clarke. “I shared a room with him and every night before we went to sleep I would ask him, ‘What are you going to do?’ And he said, ‘I’m going out to knock him out, I saw him in the hallway and he was looking at me.’ It made no difference what someone said. “

“What Galal did in the semifinals was incredible,” Clarke continued. “He went in with a Kazak, he went from head to toe and won. It was the fight of the tournament and then it was in the final. I screamed, cried – so emotional, unbelievable. You win with them, you lose with them, you cry with them. “

Galal had no defense against the claims: “He gave me a funny look,” he began to explain.

“They all looked at you weird,” countered Ben. “It’s strange, you see your opponents all the time.”

Galal continued, “I have never forgotten that look. I had saved up with him before in Sheffield. Richie, you were in my corner. I knew I could win. ”That’s a private backstory, one reason why Richie got so much out of the five.

“We were all in the same room,” Clarke continued, giving a darker look at what motivates a close team. “Me and Ben had our medals and Galal was fighting for a medal. If he lost, he wouldn’t go back to the room. He knew that. Ben had already broken Galal’s bed, so he slept on a mattress on the floor, but when he lost he slept on the street. “

“Fraze, man, don’t worry, I’ll get you a good spot on my sub-map,” added Galal.

“You see,” Clarke continued. “This journey is not over yet and we will all tackle it together.” I’m in, thank you.


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