The UK's top Youth boxing talent from Scotland, England and Wales descended on Ravenscraig Regional Sports Facility in Motherwell on Friday and Saturday for the GB Youth Championships 2011. The young boxers who took to the ring at Ravenscraig, will likely be competing for places in their respective Commonwealth Games squads for Glasgow 2014. Much was expected of the young athletes ... and they did not disappoint. The Championships produced two days of top class boxing and a host of new GB Champions.
Over 50 youth boxers aged 17 and 18 years competed over the two days, with Friday featuring the semi finals followed by the finals on Saturday. All three countries were well represented with a host of national champions on display, all hoping to go one better and take the GB Crown in their weight category.
England led the way on Friday with 10 of their 12 boxers represented in the semi finals progressing; an impressive display. England are arguably a few years ahead in terms of development, however it is clear both Scotland and Wales are making great strides, with the Scots taking 7 boxers through to Saturday's finals and Wales a further 4 over the two age categories.
And so to the Championship finals. After a fantastic day's boxing on Friday, anticipation was building ahead of the contests. England again dominated the card with 14 boxers, followed closely by 11 from Scotland and 7 from Wales. England and Wales locked horns in the first 1994 age category bout of the day, with Jack Bateson of England taking on Wales' Ieaun Regan. Young Bateson signalled England's statement of intent with a comprehensive 5-0 points victory over the Welshman. The English challenge gained further momentum in the shape of fly-weight Jack Daniel who again put Wales to the sword, overcoming Joshua John.
Scotland joined proceedings in the third bout of the day with Robbie McKechnie up against England's Tom Ward. With the first home nation boxer entering the ring, the atmosphere stepped up a gear as the largely Scottish crowd looked to give the young Scot their backing. The contest which was to follow produced one of the most entertaining and explosive bouts of the day with England's Ward narrowly taking the Gold medal by a single point 11-10. A great contest which young McKechnie, one of Scotland's brightest young talents; will take a lot of positives from.
England were looking strong and threatening to dominate the finals completely after racking up a fourth straight Gold with Jack Slater soundly beating Scotland's Ahsan Afzal 12-3. The trend was halted in the next bout however as Scotland's Mark Parvin squared up to England's Macaulay McGowan at 64kg. After a good technical and closely fought contest, Parvin scored a 3-1 victory to claim Scotland's first Gold of the day.
England bounced back in the next bout as they overcame the Welsh once again. George Crotty this time taking the title against Jamie Lee in the 1994 69kg category. This gave the English squad an impressive 5 Golds from the opening 6 contests and it was clear that Scotland and Wales would have to up their game to halt them.
Scotland did exactly that in the next contest as Grant Quigley took on England's Patrick Miller. In another explosive contest, young powerhouse Quigley put on a superb display to claim Scotland's second Gold medal 12-3.
It was now Wales' turn to up the ante and get their hands on a Gold. They were given the chance with Alex Hughes battling it out for the Light Heavy-Weight 1994 title against English Champion Luke Crowcroft. In a tight contest, the Welsh finally claimed a place at the top of the winner's podium with Hughes taking the title 3-2.
With one contest remaining in the 1994 age group England had the chance to extract some revenge for Hughes' victory, as Heavy-Weight Charlie Eastwood took on his Welsh title rival Kody Davies. In what was a gripping contest with both boxers landing some impressive shots, it was Eastwood who prevailed, winning the contest 8-5 and rounding off a great start to the finals for the English team, taking 6 gold medals from this age a category, Scotland picking up 2 and Wales also collecting a Gold.
Next up was the turn of the 1993 age group boxers, with Scotland's Daniel McLaughlin taking on England's Samson Sykes. Despite McLaughlin's best efforts to stay with the young Englishman, experience told, as the referee was forced to stop the contest in the first round. Young English Champion Sykes proving too much for the Scot.
England were looking to continue in the 1993 category as they had ended the 1994, and were looking good value for money after Sykes win. The trend continued with the stylish Qais Ashfaq showing why he is currently part of the GB Development squad, as he landed a string of blows to over-come Scotland's Ryan Collins 16-5.
It was from here however that the tables turned slightly, with both Scotland and Wales finishing the day stronger.
In an all Scottish final, Charles Flynn of Newarthill ABC took on Doon Valley ABC's Martin McCord. A typically all action bout followed, as was to be expected from two local rivals, with Flynn landing more of the telling punches and collecting Scotland's third Gold of the day 14-7.
England came back briefly in the next contest, which could have went either way. In a titanic battle with both boxers giving their all, England's Darren Tetley was given the decision 17-9 against Scotland's Rhys Pagan, despite the referee giving Tetley a standing count in the third round.
Although Pagan lost, his performance had a positive impact on his compatriots with Scotland going on to collect Gold in the next two bouts. First up, Kieran Smith was involved in a close contest with Wale's Pierre Lima. Smith and Lima had met previously with the Scot winning the contest. This time round he made it difficult for himself however as he struggled to keep his opponent at distance, the judges taking the decision that Smith did enough to merit victory by a single point. Although the score card showed 5-2 this was the result of a warning for Lima which saw him lose 2 points.
Smith's win was followed by Scotland's last Gold of the day after Mark Docherty pulled off a great victory in another close bout against England's Archie Hutchins - a win all the more impressive when you consider the fact that Docherty actually moved up a weight from 69kg to 75kg prior to the event. With a haul of 5 Gold medals, this was Scotland's best performance at a GB Youth Championship since the formation of Amateur Boxing Scotland in 2000.
The final bout of the Championships saw Wales collect a second Gold medal as Calum Evans proved too strong for his English opponent Joshua Buatsi. A result which added some balance to the final medal tally.
Head Coaches from Scotland, England and Wales Mike Keane, Mick Gannon and Colin Jones all agreed that the standard of boxing from all nations was very high. Mike Keane added "All the teams conducted themselves in a professional manner and were a credit to their country. The talent on show this weekend bodes well for the forthcoming Commonwealth Games".
Overall the GB Youth Championships provided some excellent entertainment and impressive displays with everyone present gaining a glimpse into the future of UK Amateur boxing. England are clearly ahead of associations in Scotland and Wales, however given that both ABS (Amateur Boxing Scotland) and WABA (Welsh Amateur Boxing Scotland) are both working tirelessly to development of the sport, come Glasgow 2014, England may not get it all their own way.
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