Reformed Vallily 'can add 2012' to gold in Delhi

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The Independent Online

Simon Vallily has had many trials in his 25-year-old life, and caused a good deal of tribulation. In his teens he was a trialist with Middlesbrough Football Club. At 20, he was tried and convicted of a vicious, unprovoked knife attack and sentenced to four years in a young offenders' institution.

Last night he was standing on top of the rostrum at the Talkatora Indoor Stadium with a Commonwealth Games gold medal around his neck, being tipped as a future Olympic champion.

As he savoured his golden moment, Vallily could reflect on his transformation from convicted criminal to Commonwealth heavyweight boxing champion. In the penultimate contest on finals day in the ring in Delhi, the Teessider overcame Northern Ireland's Steven Ward with clinical precision. He won inside two minutes, sending his opponent reeling with a fierce left before delivering a knockout blow with a right hook.

"He's frighteningly good," Rob McCracken, England's head coach, said. "We've got two years to work with him and there's a real possibility he could win the Olympics."

A boxer in his teens, Vallily returned to the sport after being released early from his sentence and has thrived since being given a three-month trial with the Great Britain elite squad. "I have proved a lot of people wrong," he said. "I have got a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games and a lot of people back home wouldn't have thought I'd get where I am now.

"I have done this for myself. Boxing has kept me on the straight and narrow. I have kept my head down and I am at training in Sheffield Monday to Thursday. Where I come from, I can show the younger lads the right way and if you are good at something then to stick at it and in the end it will pay off."

Vallily was one of two English fighters who produced a golden pay-off yesterday, team captain Tom Stalker outclassing Scottish teenager Josh Taylor 11-3 in the lightweight final. "It's the best feeling in the world," said the Merseysider. "I'm captain of my country and I've got a gold medal so I couldn't be any prouder. I'm the happiest person alive today."

He was certainly happier than the other three English fighters who were in action yesterday. There was no gold for Anthony Ogogo, the middleweight of Big Brother fame who had beaten the so-called "Indian David Beckham", Vijender Singh, in the semi-finals. He was beaten 16-4 by Eamonn O'Kane, one of three Northern Irish fighters to emerge victorious – together with Paddy Gallagher, who beat England's Callum Smith, in the welterweight final, and Paddy Burns, who overcame Namibian Jafet Uutoni 8-4 in the light-flyweight final.

The other big English hope, light-welterweight Bradley Saunders, was beaten 11-2 by India's Manoj Kumar.

Scottish light-heavweight Callum Johnson was a highly impressive 8-1 winner against Northern Ireland's Tom McCarthy, while the 18-year-old Welsh bantamweigtht Sean McGoldrick lost on countback to Sri Lankan Manju Wanniarachchi.

Delhi Diary: What to watch

5.30am: Badminton

There are three England v Malaysia finals taking place on court today. England's Rajiv Ouseph in the men's singles final, while Nathan Robertson and Jenny Wallwork are in the mixed doubles final.

6.30am: Gymnastics

England have competitors in three events – Francesca Fox goes in the women's rope, Rachel Ennis in the hoop and Lynne Hutchinson in both the hoop and ribbon.

TV 9am-12pm, 12.30-2.15pm, BBC2. 2.15-6pm, BBC1. Highlights: 7-8pm, BBC2. Additional Coverage: BBCi.

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