Lauren Price has once again found a way to turn a potential loss into a win against Nouchka Fontijn.
Her fifth career meeting came with a chance to compete for gold at the Tokyo Olympics. The chance goes to Britain’s Price, who on Friday afternoon in the Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo defeated the Dutch woman Fontijn in the semi-finals in the women’s middleweight division with a split decision.
Fontijn won by two cards (29-27, 29-27), Price won by one card (29-27), declaring the “preferred winner” on two cards that equalized the fight, 28-28 after three rounds.
The result was less controversial than Price, who successfully appealed against Fontijn against a split-decision defeat at the 2019 Amateur World Championships. Fontijn was declared champion for about 30 minutes before the decision was reversed in favor of Price, who entered Tokyo as number one.
The Welsh southpaw, who lives in Sheffield, England, remains the top middleweight division as the division seeks to crown a new queen after Claressa Shield won consecutive gold medals in 2012 and 2016 before turning pro.
Staying true to her scouting report on the opening lap, Price shot her southpaw, hopped on her toes, and made use of sideways movements that helped offset a 5½-inch height advantage. Fontijn struggled to find a rhythm that was often missing with his right hand. Price landed combinations in the middle, but left himself vulnerable to Fontijn’s left hooks and right hands.
After the opening round was split 3-2 in Fontijn’s favor, Price found himself in a hole after losing a point in the middle of the second round for holding. Fontijn was doing her part in fighting his way out of frequent clinches before that point, and Price returned to boxing from afar.
The fight was still within reach on four of the five cards for both fighters going into the final round. Price stuck to her script, taking advantage of the in and out movement, mainly using the outside of the ring to prevent Fontijn from connecting to a fight-changing right hand. The solid game plan that Price implemented was enough to position itself for gold.
Fontijn is the only medalist to leave Tokyo for the Netherlands and a two-time medalist after taking silver after losing to Shields in the 2016 women’s middleweight final in Rio. Fontijn took bronze in Tokyo 2020, as did Zemfira Magomedalieva from ROC after her loss to number two seed Li Qian (China).
Price and Qian will meet for gold on Sunday, August 8th.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox