Ben Whittaker waits for golden shot
Olympic boxing hopeful Ben Whittaker is looking to take the next step in his blossoming career when he makes his bid for Team GB at the summer games in Tokyo – should they take place.
The 22-year-old from Darlaston is coming off the best year of his amateur career in 2019 after he picked up a bronze medal at the World Championships and a silver at the European Games.
The light-heavyweight was due to face Romanian Paul-Andrei Aradoaie at the Copper Box Arena in London on Tuesday as he went in search of Olympic qualification.
But, following the spiralling coronavirus outbreak, the International Olympic Committee has postponed the qualifiers until May or June – and with plans in place for the Olympics to start on time in July, Whittaker still fancies his chances when he does get his chance to step back into the ring.
“To me it’s just another tournament, but one that gives you a pretty decent reward at the end,” he said of the qualifiers. “I have to go and do my job now.
“I’m a favourite and should be one of the top seeded boxers there – I’m one of the best, so I need to use that as confidence.
“Some people crumble with that pressure but for me it shows that everything is paying off.
“It’s been a really good year for me and I want to continue with that in 2020, I know what I need to do.
“I’m really confident, I know I can do the job – other fighters won’t want to draw me.
“It’s a great opportunity and I want to take it.”
Before the qualification programme was restructured, Whittaker’s World Championship bronze would have been enough to earn him an Olympic spot, but now he must place among the medals again to fulfil his Olympic dream.
Fighting out of Wolverhampton’s Firewalker Boxing Club, he will be one of more than 30 boxers in his weight category vying for a space, alongside hundreds of other fighters aiming for one of 77 Olympic places.
“It will be a great achievement for me,” he added. “I’ve spoken before about not doing well in school and wanting to prove people wrong and this will make all the hard work worth it.
“Thanks to my parents and coaches for their help, if I make it, it’s for them too.”
Following the outbreak of the coronavirus, sporting events around the world have been postponed.
With the summer’s major sporting events currently up in the air, Whittaker says he has had to find his own ‘balance’ in training to stay safe.
“The training is going well but I’m being careful with the coronavirus,” he said. “With training camps there’s a lot of people from different countries so I’m doing what I can to be hygienic, but you need to spar in training too, so it’s a balance.
“But I feel healthy and ready.”