HARD WORK PAYS OFF WITH OLYMPIC PLACES
Thomas Stalker and Luke Campbell became the first Great Britain boxers to book their places at the London 2012 Olympics today and revealed how a pact they struck four years ago inspired them to success.
Both Stalker and Campbell lost out in the selection process for the Beijing Olympics but weeks later they took time out during a tough training camp in Kazakhstan to vow they would make it to their home Games four years on.
That vow became reality at the World Championships in Baku when Stalker's slick win over Russian Alexander Solyanikov, and Campbell's over Algeria's Mohamed Ouadahi, booked quarter-final and qualifying places.
Later, Welshman Fred Evans, the reigning European welterweight champion, became the third British boxer to guarantee his place at the Olympics when he edged away for a 12-6 win over Patrick Wojcicki of Germany.
Stalker said: "I remember we were on the kind of training camp that breaks some hearts. We were still dreaming of the Olympic Games. Luke and I are close and have maybe been through the most, so it's a special feeling to do it together.
"I remember all the lads who'd qualified four years ago getting their Olympic kits and the press were all over them. I was in the background being ignored. I wanted what they had, and now I've finally got it.
"I only started boxing when I was 19 and I couldn't throw a punch for a year. Now I'm going to an Olympic Games.
"It's crazy. I've proved if you dedicate your life to something and believe in yourself, your dreams can come true."
Campbell also recalled the pain of missing out on Beijing to bantamweight rival Joe Murray. While Murray went out early in China, Campbell won the European title before seeing his progress blighted by injury.
Campbell said: "Tom and I had a chat four years ago when we were devastated at missing out on Beijing. The two of us just sat there and vowed to put our heads down and train hard and make it to London.
"It's an incredible feeling that we've both made it. The hard work and dedication has finally paid off. It was never straightforward and there were times I thought I might not make it. But I kept my discipline and trained hard."
The Hull bantamweight edged into a one-point lead at the end of the first round and increased his lead when his opponent was penalised two points for slapping. Despite a nervy final three minutes, Campbell did enough to go through.
Earlier, Stalker and Solyanikov were level at 3-3 after the first round of their light-welterweight contest but Stalker's precision punching saw him nudge into a two-point lead at the end of the second, and ease to a comprehensive victory.
Evans, a comfortable winner of his last 16 clash, said: "I've always believed I was good enough to qualify for the Olympics and winning the European title proved that.
"I'm delighted to have made it and now I want to go on and win the world title."
Great Britain booked another Olympic berth at flyweight, but wins for both Kal Yafai and Andrew Selby mean the pair could end up having to box off for the single 52kg place.
Both were in imperious form reaching the last eight, Yafai easing home 27-15 over Mexico's Elias Emigdio and Selby easing away to beat tough Thai Chatchai Butdee 25-12.
Both Yafai and Selby have the chance to secure Olympic qualification in Baku by winning the world title. Otherwise, they will box off at some point likely to be early next year.
Lowestoft middleweight Anthony Ogogo failed to join his team-mates in booking his Olympic spot when he went down 17-12 in an all-action contest against Brazilian Esquiva Falcao.
However, all is not lost for Ogogo. Under AIBA's qualification rules, if Falcao subsequently goes on to claim a place in the 75kg final, Ogogo - as Falcao's vanquished quarter-final opponent - will also qualify.
Super-heavyweight Anthony Joshua beat Mohammad Arjaqui of Morocco 16-7 to move within one more win of qualification. But Middlesbrough heavyweight Simon Vallily was beaten 16-10 by Algeria's Chouaib Bouloudinats.
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