Lauren Price claims world crown to create history

Lauren Price claims world crown to create history

This article first appeared in the Welsh Boxing Annual 2019-2020. Click here to buy on Amazon.

By Dewi Powell: Ystrad Mynach’s Lauren Price left the ring with her head bowed, evidently disappointed at being pipped to the post by long-time Netherlands rival Nouchka Fontijn. Just 20 minutes later, the 25-year-old stood in complete contrast as Wales’ first world amateur champion and forever a history maker.

Straight after the official announcement of a narrow 3-2 split decision loss, Welsh and Team GB officials met to quickly discuss their options and organise immediate action. A decision was made to launch a daring appeal to overturn the result of the World Amateur Championships final in Ulan-Ude, Southern Russia. 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 scorecards had initially favoured Fontijn, whilst Price earned two 29-28 tallies. The International Boxing Association [AIBA] swiftly assembled a ‘Bout Review Jury’ to take another look at the debated second round. The jury, which consisted of three neutral officials, contradicted the original decision decided by five judges and controversially rescored it in favour of Price. It overturned the result – the ambitious appeal worked!

The unprecedented u-turn gave a gold medal to Price and placed her as an eternal entrant in Welsh sporting record books. Fontijn was standing at the podium, waiting for the delayed medal ceremony to start when she heard the news. Needless to say, the Dutch middleweight didn’t stick around to receive a downgraded silver medal.

Rob McCracken, GB Boxing’s Performance Director, said: “Lauren has been absolutely fantastic for the last two years and thoroughly deserves to be world champion. She has been getting better and better and winning the world championship is a fantastic reward for all of the hard work she has put in in the gym.

“This group of boxers is still relatively inexperienced so to come to a tournament as tough as World Championships and leave with three medals is a fantastic performance.  The boxers, coaches and all of the support staff should be very happy with what the team has achieved this last week.

“The squad is going in the right direction and the outlook is positive as we look towards the Olympic Games in less than a year.”

This triumph marked the continuation of a remarkable run of form for Price. The latest addition to her trophy cabinet joined Commonwealth and European Games gold medals, plus more medals from international tournaments. That journey has seen her cross paths with Fontijn before, trading marginal wins and losses on a number of occasions. Most observers left Russia with the expectation of seeing the top two middleweights meet again for another installment of their rivalry at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

The threat posed by Price, who played over 50 times for Wales’ national football team, was well-known to Fontijn. By this point, Price had mastered her crafty approach. The southpaw stance, speed of hand and elusive footwork formed a conundrum for her opponents. The fights with Fontijn, a longer opponent who preferred to work at range, were always going to be cagey affairs but Price’s slim win was a major confidence booster.

12 Welshmen have reigned as world champions, all of them exclusively in the professional code and mostly in eras when there has been more than one avenue available. However, Price’s achievement as an amateur was undoubtedly unique. This was a format where medalists faced the best in their divisions, tournament draws don’t discriminate and paths to the top can’t be picked as they can for professionals.

The World Amateur Championships were first held for men in 1974. A version for women was belatedly established 27 years later in 2001, though has always been held separately to the male event. It provided the biggest platform for women until they were eventually accepted into the Olympics in 2012. The closest a male counterpart has come to coronation as world amateur champion was when Barry’s flyweight Andrew Selby collected a silver medal in 2011. He was beaten in a razor-thin final by Russia’s Misha Aloyan, who was favoured by a single point on the old computer-system scorecards. 12 years earlier, Kevin Evans was the first Welsh boxer to secure a medal in 1999. The heavyweight valiantly battled Cuba’s great Felix Savon in the semi-finals and brought a bronze medal over the Loughor bridge to his home in Carmarthenshire.

Price’s world championship win wasn’t just a big step forward for women’s boxing in Wales, it was a big step for Welsh boxing as a whole. Repeating the feat at the 2020 Olympics would take it to another level of success and celebration.

This article first appeared in the Welsh Boxing Annual 2019-2020. Click here to buy on Amazon.

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