Four Sheffield-based Team GB boxing stars to watch out for at Tokyo 2020 Olympics
Eleven Sheffield-based amateur boxers are dreaming of following in the footsteps of Anthony Joshua and Nicola Adams at this summer's Tokyo Olympics.
There is genuine optimism about the current crop of fighters training at the English Institute Of Sport ahead of the delayed 2020 Games, which begin on 23 July.
All seven of the men selected have won at least one major medal in the Tokyo Olympic cycle, while 2019 middleweight world champion Lauren Price is among four women chosen along with 2019 Youth world and Olympic champion Caroline Dubois, 2019 world championship bronze medallist Karriss Artingstall, and inspirational mum-of-three Charley Davison.
Boxing team leader and GB Boxing’s performance director Rob McCracken – who also trains unified world heavyweight champion AJ – said: “This is a very talented group with quite a lot of experience and provided they continue to prepare well, work hard and listen to the coaches they have every chance of being successful at the Olympic Games.”
Here, The Star meets four members of the team giving it all for a gold medal.
Super-heavyweight Clarke has been involved with the GB Boxing squad for more than 10 years and will captain the team in Tokyo.
After being stabbed three times on a night out in 2016, the 29-year-old dad-of-two is desperate to use his position in the spotlight to be a positive influence in and out of the ring.
“It’s almost become cool to carry a knife – but it’s the total opposite,” he said. “With social media, it’s becoming glamorous to be a villain or a knife carrier – but it makes you nothing but a coward.
“I really want to push with the anti-knife stuff because I believe it’s a massive problem – and it doesn’t have to be.”
There have been plenty of ups and downs until now for Clarke, who missed out on selection for London 2012 to Anthony Joshua and for Rio 2016 to Joe Joyce.
He admitted he went “stale” for a while and didn’t live the life of an athlete – and had to rid himself of a “number two” mentality.
“I looked in the mirror and told myself ‘This isn’t what I want to be’,” he added.
"I like to look and the mirror and be proud of myself.
"I want to be known as the guy who never gave up, worked hard and did it all with a smile on his face.”
If that name sounds familiar it’s because 20-year-old Caroline is the younger sister of rising heavyweight star Daniel, who is promoted by Frank Warren. We could be hearing a lot more of the Dubois name in boxing moving forward.
Caroline boxes at lightweight and is the youngest member of the team. She was named BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year in 2019 and added a silver medal to her growing collection at this month’s Boxing Road to Tokyo European Olympic qualifying event.
Living in Sheffield, away from her home in London, has been tough but rewarding, she said.
“I had a dream to qualify and I knew I needed to work my a*** off to get there and being in camp there were no distractions.
"Being around the other athletes and boxers has been so good because we can all motivate each other. We all have the same dream.
"Being up here is obviously difficult because you are not with your family, the people you know and the environment you are used to but it’s good. It’s all part of the learning experience.”
Behold a true athlete. Price is a former international footballer with Wales, who was capped 52 times by the country of her birth before giving up football in 2014 to focus on boxing. As a teenager, she was also a four-time world kickboxing champion.
Having tasted so much success, then, what keeps the 27-year-old motivated?
"I just always want to do better,” she told The Star, “I’ve won the Commonwealth, the European, the World and I’ve got one more to get, that’s what motivates me.
"My grandparents as well, just to do it for them. They have supported me one-hundred per cent."
Price, who lives with teammate Karriss Artingstall in Sheffield, was raised by her grandparents Derek and Linda after her mum and dad gave her up when she was three days old.
It would “mean the world” to bring a medal home to them in south Wales.
"They have supported me all my career,” she added. “They were there when I was playing football on a Sunday and it was hammering down with rain, they were there on the sidelines or spending thousands of pounds on me to travel abroad and compete.
"It would mean everything to me, they know it’s been a dream of mine since I was eight years of age.”
Supermum Davison took a seven-year break from boxing before she returned to the sport in 2019 and quickly earned a place on the GB team. Like Dubois and Clarke, she won a silver medal at the Road to Tokyo qualifying event earlier this month.
"I thought after having the children I wasn’t going to come back,” the 27-year-old said. “I went down to the gym just to shift some of the baby weight and I got the bug again.
"I didn’t expect to get this far.”
One side effect of being a boxer has been returning home with black eyes, but the flyweight said her young children Arnell, nine, Amani, six, and Amir, five, are among her biggest fans.
"They are really interested, they go on my punch bag in the garden. My eldest understands more but my youngest two just put their little gloves on and punch each other and play around.
"I do believe that they understand what I’m doing it for now, I’ve sat them down a few times and explained to them. They seem to enjoy me doing it.”