It was high fives all round for England’s boxers on Monday when all five remaining fighters successfully negotiated the semi-finals to reach their gold medal bouts.
After Thomas Stalker and Callum Smith came through their afternoon fights with points victories, Bradley Saunders, Anthony Ogogo and Simon Vallily progressed from their bouts, although not all in the most conventional circumstances.
The evening session at the Talkatora Indoor Stadium started normally enough for England with Bradley Saunders winning his light welterweight semi-final bout against Louis Colin 10-7.
Saunders took an early 3-0 lead after the first round and extended it to 7-1 by the end of the second but the Mauritian fought back, hitting Saunders with a series of blows to get within two points at 9-7 before the Beijing Olympian rounded things off at 10-7.
Then came Anthony Ogogo’s fight with ‘the David Beckham of Indian boxing’. Vijender Singh, the 2008 Olympic bronze medallist, is widely credited with bringing boxing in India back into the public conscience and is a firm fans’ favourite.
But Ogogo stunned the home crowd as he came from 3-0 down to win 4-2 with just ten seconds remaining. That all four points came from third round penalties against Singh for holding did not faze the 21-year-old middleweight fighter.
“At the end of the day he was doing illegal moves,” said Ogogo. “He’d obviously seen my strengths from my previous fights and was trying to nullify them so he can’t complain when the judges penalise him. I feel like I’m there on merit. I’m doing it for my country and I just want to make England proud.”
The Indian team subsequently launched an appeal against the decision but it was thrown out.
Things got yet stranger as Simon Vallily progressed to the heavyweight final without throwing a punch after his opponent, Awusone Yekeni from Ghana, withdrew from the bout because of a shoulder injury.
Despite securing a free pass to the gold medal fight against Steven Ward of Northern Ireland, the 25-year-old Teessider insisted it wasn’t necessarily the best preparation as he aims to become England’s first Commonwealth heavyweight boxing gold medallist since 1978.
“To be honest I probably would’ve preferred to fight. I may be going into the final a little cold but then I’m also fresh so you could argue both ways.
“It’s a strange way to get to a final. I don’t know how I feel about it but I’m there and that’s the main thing.”
And he had a word for team-mate Saunders, who hails from Stockton-on-Tees.
“With Bradley Saunders also getting to his final it’s a great day for the north east and hopefully we can bring some medals back home for the region.”
After a successful day in the ring, England’s head coach Rob McCracken said: “We’ve got five guys through to finals. That’s a mark of how strong English boxing is and I’ve got every faith the lads can turn them into gold.”
England’s boxing finals are as follows:
Wednesday 13 October – afternoon session (from 15.00)
Lightweight (60kg): Thomas Stalker v Josh Taylor (SCO)
Welterweight (69kg): Callum Smith v Patrick Gallagher (NIR)
Wednesday 13 October – evening session (from 19.00)
Light Welterweight (64kg): Manoj Kumer (IND) v Bradley Saunders
Middleweight (75kg): Anthony Ogogo v Eamonn O’Kane (NIR)
Heavyweight (91kg): Simon Vallily v Steven Ward (NIR)