By John Hutchinson, Sports Reporter
Friday, March 23, 2012
ANY athlete will tell you that competing in an Olympic Games is the pinnacle of their career.
The Olympic Boxing competition will feature 10 men’s weight categories, from light flyweight (46-49kg) to super heavyweight (over 91kg). At London 2012, women’s boxing will feature as a full Olympic medal event for the first time, with medals in three weights: flyweight (48-51kg), lightweight (57-60kg) and middleweight (69-75kg).
In the Olympic Games, men’s bouts take place over three three-minute rounds, with women’s bouts held over four rounds of two minutes each. Boxers score points for every punch they land successfully on their opponent’s head or upper body.
At London 2012, all boxing events will be run in a knockout format. The winners of the two semi-finals in each weight category will fight for the gold medal, with the losers of the two semi-finals each awarded a bronze.
Hertfordshire boxer Billy Joe Saunders is one such Olympian, who after competing at the Beijing Games in 2008, as well as making history for being the first gypsy to compete at an Olympics, made the decision to turn professional with Frank Warren.
He was one of four from the 2008 GB Boxing squad who chose to go pro, the others being Olympic gold medallist James DeGale, and bronze medallists David Price and Tony Jeffries.
Whilst Billy Joe didn’t manage to win a medal out in the Far East, his performances in the early rounds didn’t go unnoticed and he was earmarked as a real talent for the future.
This talent was obviously spotted by world famous boxing promoter Frank Warren, and he successfully negotiated with the Herts puglisit and convinced him to turn his hand to the professional arena.
He has since become the Southern Area Middleweight Champion after defeating Gary Boulden at the Wembley Arena back in November 2011.
But the 22-year-old, who lives on a travellers’ site in Hatfield, has urged athletes scheduled to be competing at London 2012 to take advantage of their opportunity.
“I can sum it up in three words, ‘a lifetime experience’ and you’ve just got to enjoy it every minute you’re there,” said the Herts hitter.
“It’s not a chance someone gets very often, to go to the Olympic Games, and now it’s in London, you’ve got to enjoy it the best you can, and come away with the best medal you can.”
Saunders was more than likely earmarked as a realistic medal winner for this year’s Games by the British Boxing Authority before he turned his back on the amateur game.
And whilst he acknowledges how much he would have enjoyed fighting in front of a home crowd, he doesn’t regret his decision. And it has a lot to do with the direction he felt the sport was heading following the departure of head boxing coach Terry Edwards after Beijing.
“You know, I’ve got a title now, and I think I have moved on to the next level now; it would have been nice to compete in 2012 but the politics was a bit too much for me at the time,” he added.
“They’ve got their favourites, and when Terry Edwards went, I didn’t feel that safe.
“I think I made the right decision [turning pro]. You know everyone will think ‘oh Olympic Games, I want to go to the Olympic Games’ but I feel I made the right decision, but it’s a thing of the past now and I’ve got to get on with my career.”
Back in 2008 Saunders defeated then world bronze medallist Adem Kilicci 14-3 in the first stage at the Worker’s Gymnasium.
But in the second stage, he found wily Cuban Carlos Banteuax Suarez too much of a challenge, and exited the competition with a 13-6 defeat.
He was, however, less than impressed with the judges’ scoring ringside, as he felt they failed to acknowledge the majority of his body shots which he felt were clean.
The maturity Saunders showed in the ring, bearing in mind he was the youngest member of the squad at 18, drew plaudits from the press out in Beijing as well as those watching back home.
Now the Southern Area Middleweight Champion will be the one casting his eye over this year’s hopefuls, no doubt willing each and every one on to medal glory.
He added: “I was speaking to my mate Tom Stalker, and hopefully he’s sorted me out a couple of boxing tickets.”