In the ring for the first time for half a year, a change in weight divisions and desperate to get his career back on track.
The pressure was on for boxer Jack Bateson who was competing at the famous Tammer Tournament in Finland at the weekend looking to put his Olympic snub behind him.
The 22-year-old from Leeds, supported on the Sky Academy Sports Scholarship scheme since 2012, gives a blow-by-blow account of his glorious return……
After six months out of the ring and making the decision to move up a weight division from Flyweight to Bantamweight, I was excited but apprehensive as to how things were going to pan out.
It has been a tough start to the year and so I was keen to get back down to business and kick-start my career.
The Tammer Tournament was the perfect opportunity and I had unfinished business to deal with in Finland.
I had competed twice there in 2012 and 2014 when I won silver and missed out on topping the podium and hearing the English national anthem.
The challenge wasn’t just to improve on my two previous results at the event, it was also the first time in my career I would be competing at Bantamweight (56kg). The silver medals I had won were at Light Flyweight (2012) and Flyweight (2014). I felt that anything less than a silver two years later would be a step in the wrong direction.
I was matched against the Philippines in the semi-final. They are a strong boxing country with a history of great fighters, especially in the lower weight divisions. Jeorge Rey Edusma is the Philippines Elite Bantamweight national champion so I knew he would be a tough test.
With no footage or knowledge on my opponent other than results, I didn’t know what to expect. I saw at the weigh-in that he was shorter than me with a muscular, stocky physique. My plan was to keep it long and use my longer reach to my advantage.
From the opening bell he came out flying, he tried to put it on me as he rushed forward in his southpaw stance.
He caught me with a few shots and gave me a quick welcome back to the real thing. I knew I was in for a fight. After 20 seconds I settled in to my rhythm, switching stance and countering with long range shots, catching him on the way in.
I was ahead after the first round and began the second with my confidence on the up. With 50 seconds of the round remaining my opponent suffered a cut to his left eye and the fight was stopped and so I won by TKO.
I felt good to win and I was looking forward to the final where I would meet Scotland’s Lee McGregor. I boxed Lee in 2015 at the Feliks Stamm tournament in Poland where I beat him in the semi-final. I was confident of a repeat victory!
It turned out to be a great bout. It tested me mentally and physically as I had to stay switched on and focused from the opening bell. It was cagey at times, with both of us trying to steal a clean shot when the other would lose focus for a split second.
I took the centre of the ring in each round and aimed to keep him on the back foot by starting and finishing the exchanges. I was confident of success at the end of each round.
After a strong finish, the final bell sounded and I banged my chest in confidence. I was a happy man when I got my arm raised and felt rightly rewarded for all the hard work I’d put in leading up to this tournament.
I feel like a different man at my new weight class and I’m enjoying my boxing much more, feeling stronger and more mature every time I train.
After missing out on gold twice in previous years in Finland it was an amazing feeling to be stood on the podium in that No 1 position, looking on as the English flag was raised and the anthem ‘God save the Queen’ playing. Throughout the silence I smiled and took it all in.
I have been through a lot and coming back after the year that I’ve had and fighting on to take this gold medal back home to Leeds says a lot about my character.
I’ll keep fighting as I work towards my dreams. I’m sure there will be plenty more ups and downs but moments like this make it all worth while.
WHAT’S COMING UP FOR OUR SCHOLARS…
OCT 23-30: Elise Christie, GB speed skating training camp, Calgary
OCT 30: Quillan Isidore, BMX Winter Nationals, Manchester
OCT 31 – NOV 6: Elise Christie, World Cup, Calgary