Olympic boxing hero Ben Whittaker achieves dream of becoming 'Mayor of Wolverhampton'

Olympic boxing hero Ben Whittaker has achieved his dream of becoming the Mayor of Wolverhampton – and used his brief time in the role to further inspire others.

Olympic boxer Ben Whittaker becomes Mayor of Wolverhampton for the day with the help of Mayor Greg Brackenridge.
Olympic boxer Ben Whittaker becomes Mayor of Wolverhampton for the day with the help of Mayor Greg Brackenridge.

The silver-medallist, from Darlaston, said he wanted to become the city's first citizen following his quarter-final victory in Tokyo – a request granted on Sunday.

It saw him wear the mayoral robes and follow correct ceremonial procedure as he was taken on a tour alongside the current mayor, Councillor Greg Brackenridge.

Councillor Brackenridge, a former boxer himself, was more than happy to grant the Olympian's wish – and even got to wear the silver medal, and test himself against the pro.

Olympic boxer Ben Whittaker becomes Mayor of Wolverhampton for the day with the help of Mayor Greg Brackenridge.
Olympic boxer Ben Whittaker becomes Mayor of Wolverhampton for the day with the help of Mayor Greg Brackenridge.
Olympic boxer Ben Whittaker becomes Mayor of Wolverhampton for the day with the help of Mayor Greg Brackenridge.

"I feel like royalty," Ben said as he put on the ceremonial robes. "This is a dream come true," he added as he was given the mayoral chains through the proper procedure.

The Olympian later paid a visit to Wolverhampton Art Gallery where he saw students perform a special dance, before later heading to The Way Youth Zone on School Street.

Ben Whittaker chats with Alex Rayne, aged 16.
Olympic boxer Ben Whittaker visits The Way Youth Zone in Wolverhampton during his day as Wolverhampton mayor..

The Way provides a space for young people aged between eight and 19 ­– or up to 25 with a disability – and there was already a group waiting for the new "mayor" when he arrived.

And he was more than happy to pose for pictures, let people hold the medal, and speak to the youngsters there – fist-bumping them, before telling one of them to pursue a career in swimming – and aim to become the top of that profession – after they told him they enjoyed it and were "really good".

Olympic boxer Ben Whittaker becomes Mayor of Wolverhampton for the day with the help of Mayor Greg Brackenridge.
Olympic boxer Ben Whittaker visits The Way Youth Zone in Wolverhampton where he took on mayor Greg Brackenridge.

But it didn't stop there as the boxer displayed some of the skills he used to win the silver medal in Tokyo, heading into the boxing ring against Councillor Brackenridge for a special sparring match – while still wearing the ceremonial chains.

Hannah Parkes, aged 18 from Bilston, said: "It was really good. It was nice to see him spar with the mayor and have a laugh and a joke with him. It's weird to know we've met him in real life – you see these people on TV and it's incredible to see them in real life.

"It shows there's a lot of opportunities out there for young people to get out there and give it a go. We definitely look up to him."

Olympic boxer Ben Whittaker becomes Mayor of Wolverhampton for the day with the help of Mayor Greg Brackenridge.
Olympic boxer Ben Whittaker visits The Way Youth Zone in Wolverhampton during his day as Mayor of Wolverhampton.

"I did hit him on the head [with a boxing glove on her hand] before we took a group photo," the 18-year-old added, which prompted the boxer to stand up and playfully joke around with the group.

Ben, summing up his time as mayor of the city, said: "It's a dream come true for me. I kept on saying when I was a kid that I'm going to be the mayor and the dream is a reality. Truthfully, I said it as a bit of a joke [at the time] but it's happened and it's been a really good day.

"The Olympic medal has a lot of weight behind it and I was surprised by how light it [the mayoral chain] was. I was scared I was going to break it when I was sparring! A lot of people are inspired by me and what I've done and I was buzzing to see people and meet them and let them hold the medal."

Olympic boxer Ben Whittaker with coach Vinay Patel.

The boxer added he was proof that people can do anything – saying he had got kicked out of school as a kid and was diagnosed with ADHD, but he didn't let that hold him back.

But what did he think of the current mayor's boxing skills? "I let him have a few shots and he nearly blew my neck off – the kids loved it and it's been a really good day so far," he added.

Ben was later invited down to Molineux for Wolves v Spurs along with Councillor Brackendridge at the invitation of club chairman Jeff Shi.

On Saturday the people of Darlaston came out in their droves at the town hall to greet Ben, who grew up and developed as a boxer in the town.

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