The Great Britain Olympic boxing team are still in the running for two gold medals after Lauren Price repelled the challenge of perennial rival Nouchka Fontijn in the semi-finals of the female middleweight tournament at the Tokyo Olympics on Friday.
Price overcame the disadvantage of being deducted a point in round two for holding to eke out the slenderest of 3-2 split decision victories, with two judges who made the fight a draw giving the Welshwoman the nod on the ‘preferred winner’ system.
“We know each other inside out. I started a little slow but that’s where experience comes into it. [After the point deduction] I knew I needed to pick it up going into the last round,” Price said after the bout against a woman she has faced on numerous occasions, including in the final of the world championships in 2019. On that occasion, Price won after an initial verdict in Fontijn’s favour was overturned on appeal.
In Friday’s contest, Fontijn used some clever and precise counterpunching in round one to take initial control, before Price found her rhythm in the latter part of the stanza, scoring with flurries of quick punches as she looked to use her speed and footwork to dart in and out of range of her taller foe. Nevertheless, Fontijn edged the round on three of the five judges’ cards.
The second was an untidy affair as the two boxers often became entangled and had to be broken apart frequently by the referee. Price seemed to produce the better work but also had a point deducted for holding which saw her entering the third round with it all to do.
The third was another scrappy round. Once again the two boxers frequently ended up holding and grappling, but it was Price who was landing the crisper, eye-catching shots. To her relief and delight, she took the round and the fight.
The 27-year-old from Caerphilly is now just one win away from adding the Olympic title to the Commonwealth and World titles she won in 2018 and 2019 respectively. If she succeeds then she will become just the second British female boxer – after flyweight Nicola Adams in 2012 and 2016 – to secure Olympic gold.
Price will face Li Qian in Sunday’s final, the Chinese boxer won bronze in Rio in 2016. Britain’s other gold medal hope rests with Galal Yafai, who faces Carlo Paalam of the Philippines in Saturday’s male flyweight final.
The Cubans have enjoyed a wonderful Olympics so far – with Roniel Iglesias (welterweight) and Arlen Lopez (light-heavyweight) already striking gold to become two-time Olympic champions. Heavyweight Julio Cesar La Cruz also joined that club today when the light-heavyweight champion from Rio in 2016 defeated Muslim Gadzhimagomedov of the Russian Olympic Committee in the heavyweight final.
Elsewhere in Friday’s Olympic boxing, Keyshawn Davis of the United States remains in the hunt to become the country’s first male gold medallist since Andre Ward in 2004 after besting Hovhannes Bachkov of Armenia in the semi-finals of the lightweight competition.
Davis – already 4-0 as a pro – won the final round of an untidy contest to overcome being deducted a point in round two for holding and gain a 5-0 unanimous decision victory – three of the judges had the fight a draw due to the point deduction but named Davis their “preferred winner”.
Davis will square off in the final on Sunday against Cuba’s richly talented double world amateur champion Andy Cruz in what might well be the most anticipated match-up of the Olympics so far. Cruz advanced to the final courtesy after cruising to a 5-0 victory against Australia’s Harry Garside. If Cruz denies Davis then he will secure Cuba’s fourth boxing gold of the Games. The duo have met on three previous occasions in the amateurs, with Cruz winning all three.
Around an hour after Davis goes for glory on Sunday, fellow American gold medal hopeful Richard Torrez will face Ukbekistan’s formidable Bakhodir Jalolov in the super-heavyweight final.
Main image: Lauren Price, GB Boxing.