Ben Whittaker has star potential that he might realise on the Tokyo Olympics. The sunshine-heavyweight hope speaks to John Dennen
IT was introduced on final week that as a result of pandemic abroad spectators won’t be permitted to attend the Olympic Video games later this 12 months. It’s a blow for the athletes, whose associates, households and supporters gained’t be capable to watch stay. However for the boxers a very powerful factor is performing and successful medals. ““The aim nonetheless stays the identical,” light-heavyweight Ben Whittaker says.
The reshuffle of the Olympic qualification course of has affected totally different boxers in several methods. Sandy Ryan has been one in all its victims. However changing the ultimate qualifier with as a substitute allocating Olympic quota locations primarily based on world rankings does profit Whittaker. After medalling on the World championships and European Video games in 2019 he’s extremely rated and ought to be all however assured of a spot on the Tokyo Video games, even had been he to not qualify by way of the European occasion in June.
“I need to go there and rubberstamp my identify as European gold medallist since you get a greater putting within the Olympics then, so there’s a profit from it,” Ben notes. Most significantly Whittaker must get bouts in. The pandemic shutdown prevented him from boxing for everything of 2020. “Fortunately sufficient I’m a child who does at all times tick over. The coaches have tried their finest, they’ve took us to locations like Eire to nonetheless get aggressive health club bouts,” he mentioned. “I believe we’ve been within the ring so many instances, we’re match sufficient to only get on with it. It’s good to get a number of bouts in however I believe we’re greater than skilled sufficient to know what the ring’s like now in truth. Apparently we’ve acquired a event subsequent month in Serbia. All of the quantity ones, the Olympic group, we go there, that’ll be good to prepare for Paris.
“I have to get again into the ambiance, placing in your boots, warming up as a result of all of that does construct as much as a little bit of nerves and issues like that. In 2019 and ‘18 I used to be constantly out so I used to be simply used to it, it was similar to going to the health club. It feels a bit daunting now I haven’t performed it for whereas however I’m positive I’ll be nice.”
Whittaker impresses on the 2019 European Video games. Picture: Lumix/Workforce GB
It’s onerous for British boxers to get a bout in, regardless that athletes on the Olympic programme are allowed to coach within the UK and smaller tournaments are happening in Europe. However the Covid state of affairs in Britain has made it tough UK boxers to enter worldwide occasions. The primary factor for Olympic hopefuls can be to have some contests with a view to sharpen up earlier than Tokyo and the qualifier. “You’ve acquired to get your eye in as a result of sparring and issues like that’s nice but it surely’s nothing like a bout,” Ben mentioned. “When there’s a stake on the finish of it, a winner and a loser, they arrive out swinging at you. It modifications the vitality of a bout. So we’ve simply acquired to get again in there hopefully as quick as we are able to and get the ball rolling but it surely has been a little bit of a loopy state of affairs.”
Whittaker is younger, nonetheless solely 23 years previous, gifted and as a light-heavyweight he’s in an thrilling division. He would make a vastly interesting signing for any skilled promoter. However he resisted any temptation to show over earlier than the Olympic Video games. “However why come this far solely to throw it away now,” he mirrored. “I’ve put myself in an incredible place now, World medallist, European Video games medallist, all I would like now to placed on my tally is that Olympic medal. I simply want to provide it a shot.
“It could be nice to get a bit of cash, turning professional, however trying again and possibly seeing individuals I beat on the rostrum would have been a bit upsetting.
“I’m nonetheless studying. The Olympics getting set again one other 12 months, it’s upsetting however I’ve had one other 12 months to construct correctly into the burden as a result of regardless that I’m six foot three and tall on the weight, there’s much more constructing to get there. So I believe come the Olympics I’ll be a special boxer. So it’s been a good time to only work on issues like power, build up a bit extra into the burden. You need to take the positives from it and that’s what I’ve been doing.”