Boxing: Gavin grabs golden chance to make history with both fists

English lightweight leaves heavy imprint in annals of fight game's unsung heroes

Frankie Gavin was crowned English boxing's first ever World Amateur champion in Chicago last night after an impressive 18-10 victory over Italy's Domenico Valentino in the final.

The 22-year-old lightweight from Birmingham had controlled the fight from the beginning and said afterwards: "It is the best feeling ever to be world champion. I've fought six bouts and my tactics have been spot on each time."

Gavin will be regarded as a favourite for his division at the Beijing Olympics next year, and now stands a good chance of emulating his close friend Amir Khan, who won a silver medal at the Athens Games in 2004.

The England team's head coach, Terry Edwards, thinks Gavin thoroughly deserves his success in what is regarded as one of the most demanding events in the sport in terms of the number of fights condensed into a small time-span.

"He came through the system and proved his class in the toughest competition in boxing," Edwards said. "Six wins against the world's best says it all." Gavin is following in some illustrious footsteps, with the likes of Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Joe Frazier, Sugar Ray Leonard and Oscar De La Hoya all beginning their careers in the competition.

Gavin had earlier cut a swathe through the lightweight division, taking less than three rounds to completely outclass Omar Ward of Barbados 20-0. But it was the manner of his semi-final victory over Russia's long-standing No 1, Alexey Tishchenko, which showed his enormous potential. It was the first time that Tishchenko had tasted defeat for four years, and he was well beaten 19-10.

Gavin had already won a Commonwealth gold medal in Melbourne last year but his trainer, Tom Chaney, said his victory in Chicago was a far more important success. "Frankie just rang me with the news and it is unbelievable to think that this cheeky young guy who walked into our gym eight years ago is now the world champion," said Chaney, a trainer at the Hall Green amateur club. "He'll come back home to a massive welcome and he'll concentrate on going to the Olympics. He can do whatever he wants now because he's the champion."

Gavin's success rounded off a remarkable World Championships for the English team. Bradley Saunders and Joe Murray have also secured bronze medals, doubling the previous tally of English medal winners at the tournament.

The achievements of Saunders and Murray also guaranteed them places in Beijing, while Tony Jeffries became England's fourth qualifier when he reached the quarter-finals in the light-heavyweight division.

In the semi-finals, Saunders, a light-welterweight from Sedgefield, lost to another Russian, Gennady Kovalev, while the bantamweight Murray from Manchester went down 20-11 to the Mongolian Enkhbat Badar-Uugan.

There had been high hopes, too, for the Liverpudlian super-heavyweight David Price but he had to withdraw from his quarter-final against Italian Roberto Cammarelle with a suspected broken left hand.

He sustained the injury in the final round a comfortable last-16 victory over Macedonian Primislav Dimovski, but could still reach Beijing via the remaining qualifying tournaments in the new year.