Junior Championships 2022: Male preview (Under 66kg)
March 24, 2022 | by Matt Halfpenny
Returning to its traditional slot in the boxing calendar is not the only big difference between the England Boxing National Junior Championships in 2022 and last year’s edition, which was put back to October because of the Covid-19 Pandemic.
There is also the small matter of the right to earn a place on the England Talent Pathway, and, for the most, heavier weights, the chance to box for the Three Lions at this summer’s GB Junior and Youth Three Nations in Barnsley.
It is a fact not lost on the talented contenders who have reached the last semi-final stages at the Guildford Spectrum this weekend, where they will compete for the right to be named national champion come Sunday evening.
After no international action for more than two years, success in Surrey carries further reward and recognition that many are eager to grasp.
The allure of pulling on an England vest has certainly not been lost on the quartet competing in the Under 66kg, that is for sure, where the battle to be number one in the country is set to be hotly contested.
Callum Kilmore-Walsh, of High Wycombe, augers international ambitions, having made rapid progress since dropping down from Under 70kg.
He has enjoyed three wins to get to this stage, having beaten Ashton Duncan of Thames Valley and Harry Boutell of Tunbridge along the way.
Winning a title belt on Sunday would represent a terrific transformation for the teenager, says his coach, John Macinnes.
“Callum’s been with us since he started out aged about 11, but since he lost in the Development semi-finals last year, he’s really stepped it up,” he said.
“The last six months he has really taken it a lot more seriously and got himself fit, which has allowed him to get his weight down from around 68.5kg, where he had to enter at Under 70kg, to where he can enter at Under 66kg.
“I think that’s a much better category for him, and I think he’s realised what he needs to do if he wants to succeed, so fair play to him.
“He’s battl- hardened having already come through the bouts he has, and has the momentum. I said to him that if he wins one more bout then get gets to wear an England vest in the Three Nations, which is a big driving factor.
“His response was that he didn’t just want that England vest, he wants the two wins and the title belt as well, which is great to hear.”
Also with one eye on England honours is Alfie Briggs-Price, who has seen Newark team-mate and training partner, Sam Hardy, do just that by winning two national titles.
He has been boxing with the Nottinghamshire club for ‘at least five years’ and has considerable experience with 24 bouts under his belt.
And while his record of 12-12 may not look that impressive on paper, coach Dean Sugden insists it is misleading because of the circumstances behind it.
“He’s not to be underestimated because he’s really come into his own recently, and taken great inspiration from Sam,” he said.
“He’s just had a growth spurt, which means he’s moved up from Under 63kg, and it seems to have suited him as he seems to have developed his ‘man’s strength earlier than some.
“Alfie has never got this far before, but he has beaten three decent lads, including one who was 12-0 and one from Moss Side Fire, who was tough.
“He’s been pulling a negative record around and he really has that shot at England in his sights, plus he’s learning all the time from Sam.
“When you have someone with that knowledge and experience, then it can really help you develop and improve, which is what he’s done. The pair of them have been coming in and doing fitness work at 6am and then back for training in the evening, so they’ve put the hard work in.”
Out to do the business for the London Region is Sobers Boxing Clinic’s Sami Aouni, who hopes to mark the club’s first year competing in England Boxing tournaments in style.
Already he has progressed through the ultra-competitive capital stages to emerge as a worthy recipient of a semi-final spot.
Coach Shane Sobers believes it is his charges’ calmness and focus that will help him when enters the three-ring arena at the weekend.
He said: “Sami has come into boxing having already been a champion at taekwondo and kickboxing, so he would love to make it a hat-trick.
“The first time he boxed this year, he beat a lad from Repton who had quite a few bouts to his name, so that gave us the confidence to enter him in the London Championships and we were delighted and proud that he came through that.
“But he does not want to stop there… he is just focusing on the next round and, hopefully, then the one after that.
“For him, and for us as a club, if he could win it would be an amazing and achievement, and put us on the map. We’ve had one or two people leave because they want to go to bigger clubs where they’ve had national champions.
“This would show that we can produce one ourselves, and I think there are others in the gym who could be future champions. Sami getting the chance to box for England would bed the icing on the cake.”
Completing the semi-final line-up will be Lewis Robinson, from Liverpool club Gemini, for whom 2021 Under 48kg National Junior Cadet champion Louis Szeto will also compete at Guildford.
Having lost out in the final of the Developments in Hereford last year, he is hoping to go one better this time around, having moved up from Under 65kg.
Coach John Rice certainly believes he will be competitive, having had a unanimous win against Darlaston’s Levi Scotland in the quarter-finals.
“We’re pleased with his progress, he’s a decent kid,” he said. “He’s a tall and rangy southpaw, who is dedicated and really puts the effort in.
“I think on any given day he is capable of beating anyone on his category but, of course, you need to perform and you also need that little bit of luck to go your way sometimes to get a split in a tight contest.
“I think it will help having Lewis there with him and stepping up to the Juniors from the Developments is all going to be good experience for him.
“Experiencing something like this is all part of a boxer’s development and I’m sure he will enjoy the occasion.”