Boxing is likely to be one of the sports which offers Team GB the best opportunity to win medals at the Tokyo Olympics and Wednesday’s announcement of the squad of seven men and four women confirmed its depth and quality. Olympic boxing often resembles a lottery because so much depends on wayward judges and the vagaries of the draw. Yet this squad looks to be at least as strong as its London 2012 counterpart which won five medals.
The GB team then relied heavily on Anthony Joshua, Luke Campbell and Nicola Adams, who all won gold, while the 2021 squad has a much deeper pool of talent. All 11 British fighters in Tokyo can claim to be in medal contention, if they get the right draw, and that was not true of the GB teams in London and then at the Rio Olympics in 2016 when three medals were won.
Pat McCormack, Lauren Price and Peter McGrail carry serious gold medal aspirations – and the squad is packed with compelling characters. The most intriguing is Caroline Dubois who comes from a large family of fighters and campaigns at lightweight. Three years ago, when she was 17, the BBC’s venerable boxing commentator Mike Costello said: “I’m tempted to call Caroline Dubois the best female boxer I’ve ever seen.” Dubois won the Youth Olympics and world juniors and never came close to losing as a junior. Earlier this month, in her first senior tournament at the Olympic qualifiers in Paris, she received a brutal draw.
In her opening fight Dubois faced the world No 2, Mira Potkonen of Finland, who had beaten Katie Taylor, then the reigning champion, in the quarter-finals of the Rio Olympics. Dubois won a testing battle, showing far more poise than the vastly experienced Potkonen, and she reached the final of the European qualifying tournament to secure her place in Tokyo.
Charley Davison, the flyweight, stepped away from boxing for seven years and became the mother to three children. She made an unexpected comeback in 2018 and her qualification for Tokyo has been as inspiring as it was surprising.
Cheavon Clarke, at heavyweight, came close to death twice as a boy but he is an exuberant character. The team captain, Frazer Clarke, narrowly missed out on the last Olympics when his super-heavyweight place went to Joe Joyce who won silver in Rio.
GB Boxing’s performance director, Rob McCracken, said: “To qualify 11 boxers is a fantastic achievement especially as they only had one competitive opportunity to earn a place in Tokyo. The last 12 months have been very challenging but the boxers have delivered.”
Frazer Clarke said: “I have dedicated the last 10 years to this and to finally be selected to represent Team GB is amazing. This is a really strong team so to have been named captain is an unbelievable honour.”