Jeffries assured of boxing medal
Tuesday 19 August 2008
Tony Jeffries consigned the rancour and recrimination which followed Frankie Gavin's withdrawal to distant memory tonight by guaranteeing Great Britain at least two Olympic boxing medals for the first time in 36 years.
Jeffries produced a display of power and precision to overwhelm Hungary's Imre Szello 10-2 and set up a potentially explosive semi-final on Friday night against Irish light-heavyweight rival Kenneth Egan.
His victory marked an extraordinary revival for the Sunderland 23-year-old, who fell out of favour after failing to medal at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne and overcame a succession of injuries to get back to the top.
Jeffries said: "It's a dream come true. It's everything I've trained for over the last two years. I've dedicated so much of my life to getting a medal. Just to get here at all was unbelievable. All those cold morning runs have paid off now."
Jeffries had scraped through his first Beijing bout on the countback system but looked a cut above his opponent tonight as he increased his lead throughout and forced Szello to take a standing count from a big right in the last.
Next up he faces Egan, who looked superb as he quickly followed light-flyweight Paddy Barnes in guaranteeing Ireland's first two medals of the Games when he whitewashed Brazil's Washington Silva 8-0.
Jeffries and Egan have plenty of history having clashed at the EU Championships in Poland in June, with Egan leading 14-7 when Jeffries was withdrawn before the final round with a cut eye.
Egan said then: "Jeffries said to me after the fight that I was a lot better than he thought I was, which was cheeky thing to say. But it's something I'll remember, believe me."
Jeffries and Egan will do battle on Friday night shortly before super-heavyweight David Price features in the semi-finals. Middleweight James Degale could make it a trio of British medallists if he beats Kazakh Bakhiytar Artayev on Wednesday.
The belated success has come as a welcome relief to British head coach Terry Edwards, who was criticised in the wake of the Gavin debacle and early defeats for the likes of Joe Murray and Bradley Saunders.
The qualification of eight boxers was an extraordinary feat in itself and in taking at least two fighters to the podium Edwards has matched most of the realistic pre-Games expectations for his team.
Edwards said: "There was a lot of talk but the team never felt down. We stuck together and this is a great success, not only for Beijing but for London, with so many of these guys intending to stay around for 2012."
Jeffries is one of those who has expressed little desire to turn professional, but he hopes his Olympic success will bring an end to his pre-Games days when he owned and ran a burger stall in Sunderland to help make ends meet.
"Since seeing Audley Harrison winning the Olympics I've never been that interested [in turning professional]," added Jeffries. "Hopefully my funding will increase now for the 2012 Olympics and I won't have to do that again.
"I've had my ups and downs and a couple of years ago I was on a bit of a down. But my family and girlfriend and all of Sunderland have been brilliant and I really thank them all.
"Everybody in this country would love to go to the Olympics and I've done that. I'm very proud to be British and to win a medal and help Great Britain on the medal table, it's the proudest moment of my life."
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