Youths Male preview: The Under 69kg contenders
February 12, 2020 | by Matt Halfpenny
There’s plenty to look forward to at this weekend’s England Boxing National Youth Championships 2020 – and none more so than the race to win the belt as winner of the Male Youth Under 69kg category.
A magnificent seven boxers are still in the hunt to follow in the footsteps of last year’s victor at this weight, Timperley’s Clark Smith.
The possible reward of representing England that could come as a result is certainly on the minds of some of the boxers in the frame, not least because there is a World Youth Championships this year to complement the annual Europeans.
One such boxer is Steel City’s Junaid Bostan, who took on eventual Under 64kg winner Jack Oliphant last year at the quarter-final stage after the Sheffielder took the bold decision to step up from the Cadets to box at Youth level.
As he readily admits, he learned some valuable lessons in defeat to his Bodyshots opponent (now Hoddesdon) that he hopes to use to his advantage in 2020.
“I want to prove I’m the number one this year,” said the Yorkshire region’s Bostan, who is studying for his A levels at Rotherham College.
“You can say I was unlucky to get Jack Oliphant in the quarters last year, but that’s the luck of the draw and you know if you want to win the whole thing you have to beat all the best boxers at some stage.
“There are some very good lads at this weight and I know it’s not a foregone conclusion by any means, but I have been training hard because winning this tournament would mean a lot to me.
“I have won the Three Nations and boxed for England at the Europeans twice, but if I win this it could unlock a big year for me with the European Youths and Worlds coming up. If I don’t then it’s going to be much more low key and I don’t want to stay on the sidelines.”
Bostan is just one of a number of talented boxers to come out of the Darnall-based Steel City gym in recent years, none more so than head coach Grant Smith’s son, Dalton, who boxed for GB after winning the National Elite Championships (now National Amateur Championships) in 2018, before turning professional.
He has been handed a bye into the semi-finals after his scheduled opponent, Western Counties champion Liam Orme of Weston Warriors, has been forced to withdraw through injury.
Bostan added: “I got into boxing through my father, Ali, and I’ve always done it growing up. Bidding to be a national champion has been a real focus.
“I owe a lot to Grant because without him I wouldn’t be where I am today. Along with my family, he has pushed me in the right direction, not just as a boxer but in becoming a young man.”
Another strong contender is Billericay and Wickford’s George Liddard, who won the Youth Cadet Under 69kg title at this competition last year.
The Eastern Counties boxer, who boxed for England in the Schweriner tournament in Germany in the latter part of last year, is confident of his prospects.
He said: “Having won the Schools and GB Three Nations in the past, as well as the Cadets last year, it would be great to win a fourth national title.
“I have been competing since 2011-12. I have always been quiet at school and I wanted to box to look after myself, so my dad Terry, who’s a coach, took me down to the club and I’ve been here ever since.
“I’ve been training throughout Christmas, five or six days a week, and that has given me confidence that I’m in the right shape to get the job done.”
A number of the contenders at this weekend’s championships are balancing their boxing with the books, including Liddard and his quarter-final opponent, Londoner Sana Ullah.
As someone who hopes to go on and study medicine at university, the All Stars representative has precious little time to waste.
“My mum has always been keen that I study as well as box, so I make sure that I keep the two going at the same time,” said the London champion.
“I’ve come through two bouts in London and I have a lot of good friends in the sport who have been helping me, including Masood Abdullah (a winner at last year’s National Amateur Champion at Under 60kg).
“I think my strengths as a boxer are that I’m quite adaptable and I hope to use that to my advantage in this.
“I have got to the semi-finals of the Developments previously, but I was the youngest and still inexperienced. Now I feel stronger and more experienced and I’m ready.”
The same study-train ethic is in place for Queensway and the North West’s Joe Crawford, who is hoping to become an undergraduate in Chemistry at York in the next academic year.
His time is even more pushed by the fact it can take up to an hour to travel from his Burnley home to get to the gym he believes will give him the best chance of success.
Losing to Patris Mughalazi in last year’s Youth Cadets final at Under 60kg, Crawford is determined to go one better this time.
He said: ”I had a stoppage and a unanimous win in my region and I’ve had a long training camp, so I feel my preparations have gone as well as they could have done.
“Like all boxers, I’ve sacrificed a lot to do this, but we do it because we want to do it and we want to be successful.
“My coach David (Hodkinson) has been brilliant with he, plus it’s a really good facility, so it’s well worth making the trip to the gym.
“If I could win this title it would be a dream come true for me, especially after jut missing out in the final last year.”
Facing Crawford in the last eight is a boxer not far down the road in Liverpool, Louis Foulkes, of Transport.
The trainee electrician, from West Derby, is hoping the sparks will fly once he steps into the ring.
“It’s been Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday in the gym with plenty of tech work, sparring and circuit training, and Tuesday and Thursday on runs,” said Merseyside and Cheshire’s Foulkes.
“I got to the final of the Developments three years ago and the same stage as I am now in this last year, but because I hurt my hand in my pre-quarter final bout, I couldn’t box.
“I was gutted about that so this is a chance to make up for it and show people what I can do.
“I was having trouble at school when I first turned to boxing and it has really helped me. It has made me more confident and I really enjoy competing.”
Stoke Staffordshire’s Corey Mountford believes his work – as an apprentice bricklayer – has given him a significant boost when it comes to his boxing career.
Being on the go has helped him keep the pounds off and drop a weight category for this year’s Youth Championships after boxing at Under 75kg last year.
The boxer from the Smallthorne in the Potteries said: “Last year I went in at the heavier weight and got to the quarters, but I lost out to a lad who was a lot bigger than me and I probably shouldn’t have been at that weight.
“This year I have controlled my diet and weight a lot better and it’s more comfortable for me and where I should be at.
“Being on a building site every day definitely helps with that and keeps me active, rather than if I was sat in an office all day, but it does mean you have to wrap up well in winter!
“I got into boxing watching Mike Tyson. I think footwork and my sharpness are my biggest assets and I moved to Stoke Staffs because they have the reputation as being the best club in my area and have helped me improve.”
Taking on Mountford is Home Counties boxer Joshua Sholoye, who has been sparring with England internationals Oliphant and John Hedges in readiness for this weekend.
The sixth form student from Waltham Cross, who lost in last year’s Youth Cadet quarter-finals to Liam Wiseman of Team Wiseman, will wear the colours of Hoddesdon.
“Jack and John have won things in the past and I have been able to talk about that because they know what the judges will be looking for and how I need to approach things.
“I haven’t seen everyone in my weight box before, but you need to be able to adapt your style to suit. I’m confident in my ability and believe I can go all the way.”
Boxing at the England Boxing National Youth Championships 2020 starts at 1pm on Friday and Saturday and 12noon on Sunday, with spectator entry from 12noon on Saturday and Sunday and 11am on Sunday.
Tickets for spectators are priced at £20 for adults, £10 for 65+ and £5 for six to 15-year-olds. Five years and under are free.
To keep up to date, go to the Youth Championships home page here and follow the action on social media using the hashtag #EBNYC20.