Gavin departs training camp in tears after failing to make his weight

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The Independent Online

Terry Edwards, coach to the British Olympic boxing team, last night strongly defended his decision to send home lightweight gold medal favourite Frankie Gavin because he did not feel the fighter could make the required weight in time for his competition.

Edwards insisted that Gavin, who last November became Britain's first amateur world champion, had found it impossible to shed the excess three pounds before today's scheduled weigh-in for the lightweight division. He strongly denied that the boxer, who has operated at light-welterweight since securing his world title in Chicago, was pulling out because he had been found to have taken any banned substance such as a diuretic.

"We don't use diuretics," Edwards said. "That's illegal. There is absolutely no truth in that and I would be upset if I read that. I categorically deny he has failed any test. There is only one reason why Frankie is not fighting at the Games and that is because I took a judgement that he wasn't going to make the weight and that it could be dangerous for him to continue.

"I felt he had given it more than a go and it wasn't working," Edwards added. "I gave him a final opportunity yesterday, but he still wasn't where I wanted him to be. He was absolutely empty and he would have been dead at the weight. I wouldn't want any of my boxers to be in a situation which was detrimental to their health. The Olympic Games come and go, but I would never be able to forgive myself if something happened to someone because of my lack of care from that perspective.

"When I told him, he just said 'OK Tel'. He didn't argue. But he was obviously very, very emotional. He's all over the shop right now. He's worked all his boxing career to go to the Olympics. The rest of the team were very, very disappointed, but we are now determined to go out and perform even better for Frankie."

Edwards acknowledged that the shattering disappointment for Gavin and the seven other British boxers who are now left to challenge for medals here contrasted starkly with the message put out at last Sunday's press briefing at the Team GB camp in Macau, when he and Gavin had insisted there was not a problem with weight.

Edwards had scolded the media for being "negative", adding: "He's going to make the weight no problem and he's going to win a gold medal for Britain." Gavin then joked, in the manner which has earned him his nickname of "Funtime Frankie": "Yes I am. And then you can bring me an ice cream and some cakes."

But just 24 hours later Gavin was seen leaving a gym at the camp in tears accompanied by a team psychologist. There were reports that he had doubted his ability to make the weight before his success at the world championships and Edwards claimed, somewhat confusingly, yesterday that he had said it was going to be "a struggle" for Gavin to prepare for Beijing.

"Frankie was strong enough there [in Chicago] to win the title and defeat the Olympic and world champion in the process," Edwards said. "But since Chicago, time has moved on. He's 22 now, and in that eight or nine months his body has got slightly bigger and more mature."

Edwards revealed he had arranged to talk with Gavin about his future after the Games. The fighter has spoken in the past of turning professional after Beijing, and the coach added: "The sharks will be circling out there and trying to get to Frankie in this emotional state."

Gavin's only consolation is that, should he turn professional, his commercial value will be unaffected as he remains a world champion.

Having qualified for the Games with his performance in the world championships, Gavin was committed to remaining at lightweight (60kg) and had no opportunity to move up to his more natural weight of light-welter (64kg), where Britain already has, in Bradley Saunders, another qualifier from Chicago. Saunders now stands as the team's best medal hope. Edwards, meanwhile, is now hoping that the "Great Eight" can become the "Magnificent Seven".