Youth Championships 2022 preview: The Male Under 75kg Youth contenders

February 9, 2022 | by Matt Halfpenny


It’s been a bit like waiting for buses when it comes to the England Boxing National Youth Championships in the Covid-19 era… after waiting for almost two years for one, there’s now going to be two in less than three months.

The 2020 edition of the tournament took place just before the onset of the Pandemic, which took hold in the March of that year, scuppering plans for the remainder of the amateur boxing calendar.

With the 2021 nationals subsequently moved back from their traditional slots in the first half of the year to the back end if it, again because of government restrictions, the Youths did not take place until the back end of November in Banbury.

And with something like normality returning at the beginning of 2022, here we are again, 11 weeks on from that competition in Oxfordshire ready to go at the Barnsley Metrodome, with the quarter-finals, (Friday), semi-finals (Saturday) and Finals (Sunday) taking place this weekend (11th to 13th February).

Unlike in 2021, this year’s nationals do see boxers get the chance to progress to the England Talent Pathway, with the prospect of European Youth Championships in April to look forward to.

It is a carrot that is driving reigning Youth Cadet champion Luke Turner, of Phoenix Fire, as he steps up into the Open Class category.

“Winning his national title in November at Banbury was his biggest achievement to date,” said dad Glynn, who is also the teenager’s coach. “He’s always been in the mix, having 30 bouts and winning 24, and got to a Schools semis in 2018, but to get over the line was massive for him.

“He was absolutely delighted at the time – and still is – it’s given him a real lift and is a reward for the years of hard work he has put into it.

“The way he competed in that tournament was great to see because he just got better and better as the tournament went on.

“He did a lot of strength and conditioning work over the break for Covid and that certainly paid off.

“We also took the decision for him to box at a comfortable weight, rather than him trying to get down, so he had the strength. He was even able to have a good breakfast before his weigh-in!

Turner warmed up for this weekend with a third-round stoppage against Walsall Wood’s Jordan Hammonds.

Turner snr added: “He’s got Henry (Rowbotham) again first up in Barnsley, who he beat in the Cadet Final, so that is a tough one to start, but he is just going to approach it in the same way.

“The England thing is a big motivator because it’s always been an ambition and something he has had an eye on since he started out.

“Just to get on the Talent Pathway would be brilliant, but to go on and represent England in an international would be what he’d love to do.”

For his part, Henry Rowbotham, a boxer for Hartlepool Elite, is on a revenge mission after coming so close to a national title only to just miss out to Turner.

The north-easterner, who’s favourite boxers are Joe Calzaghe and Vasiliy Lomachenko, believes he can turn the tables in his rematch and go on to challenge strongly for overall honours, believing time to reassess and work on things during the enforced Covid break has helped him become a better boxer.

He said: “As soon as I got out of the ring after that defeat (against Turner), I knew what I needed to do to put it right.

“If I could reach the final, it would be my sixth and I have two national titles, but I have always just missed out on the international team, so I am busting to put that right.

“I feel I have matured as a boxer and person since before Covid. I’m used that time to change my style and go away and work on things.

“I also worked with my dad as a bricklayer during that time and that has certainly helped physically.”

Representing Yorkshire in a ‘home’ tournament is York’s Tommy Naismith, who is relishing the chance to appear on the national stage after a victory over the North West’s Matthew Ruston (Hope Street) in the pre quarters.

Head Coach Billy Wilson is hoping for more success after helping his club’s Arlo Stephens reach the England Boxing National Senior Developments Championships 2021 final at Over 91kg in December.

Naismith has previously enjoyed success as MTK Box Cup and Riveira Box Cup champion.

“Tommy’s got a tough draw, but he’s prepared really well with his sparring and training in general, and he’s delighted to be going into this as the champion of Yorkshire,” said Wilson.

“He has never boxed his opponent before, but we know he is a good kid – and you want to box the best kids at these events.

“The GB Three Nations (Junior and Youth) is coming up in the summer and to get to the final, so he could appear in that, is the dream.”

In the opposite corner will by Qasim Khan, who will be representing the East Midlands and pulling on the colours of Derby club One Nation.

Coach Harry Scarff, himself a professional boxer, is pleased with the way his charge has developed his skills since moving to the gym.

He said: “Qasim lost in the quarter-finals of the Youth Cadets before Christmas to the eventual winner (Turner), but he will be up for it and ready.

“I think last time, after not boxing for so long because of Covid, he wasn’t at his best, but this time he has knuckled down and fixed a few things ahead of these championships.

“The occasion might have affected him a little but last time, too, but this time he is in a better place mentally and he knows where he went wrong.

“It would mean a lot not just to him but the club as well if he could go all the way. We’ve had Sandy Ryan who won a national title, and so did I when I was boxing at Development level (for Salisbury, while at university in Liverpool), but we haven’t had one at Youth level, and it would be nice to put that right.

Two boxers have been given a bye to the semi-final stages, with the first of them, Billy Baxter, progressing after prospective opponent Toby Davies, of St Ives Bay, has unfortunately had to pull out because of a positive Covid-19 test.

The Peterborough Police boxer warmed up for his weekend of action by unanimously beating Billy Gallagher of Southern Counties club Strood in his pre quarter-final last weekend.

After seeing Shae Gowler win a Junior Cadet title in October, and Alfie Baker reach a final at the same tournament, Head Coach Chris Baker is delighted to see his club continuing to punch above its weight, with Baxter just one of a number of talented boxers coming off the Cambridgeshire production line.

He said: “We are a relatively small club run by volunteers who have full-time jobs and just want to keep kids away from anti-social behaviour.

“We run sessions on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and then have running at the weekend, and so to see some of our boxers competing with the Reptons and Newhams of this world is fantastic. The success we have had has made others realise that maybe they could compete too.

“Billy is absolutely buzzing for this weekend because he’s had to wait a long time for this, having missed out on the Juniors in 2019 when they had to be cancelled because of Covid-19, and then being injured for the Youths in 2021.

“This is his first big opportunity for a while and I’m proud of the work he has put in to get to this stage. It’s a tough category, with some very good boxers, but he’s ready to give it a go.”

Completing the line-up, and the other with a last-eight bye, is Repton’s Micah Michaels, who won the Youth Development title before Christmas.

The talented London Region boxer also claimed a National Junior Development title in 2019, so is no stranger to what it takes to win on the highest stage.

Head Coach Steve Walters is confident he can take the step up in his stride as he looks to make it a 2021-22 season to remember.

“I think he can take the step up from Developments to Open Class in his stride because he’s been sparring elite boxers in our gym and he’s 100 per cent ready for it,” he said.

“We have the bye in the quarters and we are planning for both opponents who he could get in the semis because they are totally different boxers.

“The good thing is that Micah is capable of adapting his style and is very level-headed, as he showed in the Youth Developments, when he boxed a very tall boy, lost the first round and then came back strongly to win after that.

“He is someone who I rate highly. I have been coaching for 28 years and have worked with Martin J. Ward and Dennis McCann and I would put him on the same level as that.”

More on the Youths 2022

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