Ben Whittaker is bound for Tokyo after battling through Olympic qualifiers

Black Country boxer Ben Whittaker has booked his place at this summer’s Tokyo Olympics – but missed out on the chance of a qualifying gold medal when he pulled out of the final bout.

Ben Whittaker
Ben Whittaker

The Darlaston hopeful entered the road to Tokyo European qualifiers in Paris as the number one seed at light-heavyweight and needed only two wins to guarantee his Olympic place.

He first came through the test of Romanian Paul-Andrei Aradoaie before digging deep to clinch a split-decision win over Croatia’s Luka Plantic.

That tight victory ensured Whittaker had a spot on the plane for next month’s Games and speaking after the Plantic bout he was pleased to seal it.

Whittaker said: “That was a good fight. He fought for us, for the British Lionhearts, in the WSB a few years back, and we sparred a lot of rounds. I think he’s my age, but he looks about 42. But we got the win.

“Of course, as a fighter you’re not going to come out the ring, going, ‘I lost, I lost,’ he’s going to play his part, but I know deep down, he’s happy he’s qualified, and if I see him again in Tokyo it won’t be a split. I got the point taken off, but I knew I had it (already won).”

Whittaker was due to face Cuban-born Loren Alfonso Dominguez, who fights international for Azerbaijan, in the final of the qualifiers but the Black Country fighter pulled out as a precaution, with his Olympic dream already secured.

That meant Whittaker took home a silver medal from the qualifiers and missed the chance to earn a higher seeding in Tokyo, with Dominguez earning the gold.

Whittaker was originally hoping to avenge his loss to Dominguez from the 2019 European Games, when the GB star had to settle for silver, but his sights are now set on Olympic glory.

This comes after the prospect was forced to wait in the wings with his fellow fighters after last year’s qualifiers, and the subsequent Olympics, were cancelled due to the cornavirus pandemic.

That 15-month delay was a frustrating time for Whittaker who considered turning professional and giving up on his Olympic journey, but in the end he is glad he stayed the course.

“There was that thing in my mind saying ‘I might just go pro’,” he said via Boxing Scene. “All these things are getting cancelled, it was 50-50 if the Olympics was going on and I’m thinking ‘why am I wasting my time waiting?’

“You see people like Teofimo Lopez, who is 23, my age, he’s unified world champion now so that annoyed me a little bit.

“But, at the end of the day, we all have our own paths, I’m in a great position now where I’m world No 3 – so why give that away now? I’m going to try go to these Olympics and do something.

“I didn’t think the Olympics would happen. but we have the green light now.”

Whittaker was one of 11 members of GB Boxing – seven men and four women – to qualify for Tokyo.

Lauren Price and Pat McCormack were the only two to pick up gold medals, while Whittaker was one of five that earned silver and another two fighters picked up bronze.

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