Thomas Stalker got England’s very own Boxing Day off to a flying start as he won gold in the lightweight category, saying afterwards he felt like Liverpool football captain Steven Gerrard winning the World Cup.
“It is the best feeling in the world,” declared the new Commonwealth Games champion. “I am captain of my country and I won a gold medal. I couldn’t be prouder. I am the Commonwealth Games gold medallist and I am over the moon.
“I feel like I’m Steven Gerrard and I’ve just won the World Cup final – the only difference is he’s just got a lot more money!”
The 26-year-old put in a punishing final two rounds to claim a convincing 10-3 victory over Scotland’s Josh Taylor at the Talkatora Indoor Stadium this afternoon.
After a tight first round, the England team captain asserted his authority on the bout to take a 5-2 lead and after taking a hit for 5-3, caught Taylor with his left to go 6-3 up at the end of the second round.
He said: “After the first round it was only 2-2. I never thought it was going to be easy but I just had to break away again in the last two rounds.”
From then on it was all about Stalker as the European silver medalist took control of the bout, stretching his lead to 8-3 before allowing himself to drop his guard a little. Two more points put the icing on Stalker’s cake and as the bell rang for the end of the bout, he raised his arms in triumph as Taylor dropped to the canvas.
On this form, Stalker should have every chance of making the British team at the London 2012 Olympics but the father of one is not counting his chickens.
“There is still a long way to go for London 2012,” he said. “A lot can happen and I want to keep winning. If I keep my feet on the ground, I feel I can qualify and represent Great Britain in the Olympics.”
Before turning his attention to his next bout though, Stalker is intent on ending his self-imposed exile to share his success with family and friends.
“I want to spend some time with my girlfriend and my daughter because I haven't spoken to a single person back home in the last month with wanting to focus on this gold medal. Now I can finally speak to my family and friends, all the lads at the gym and everyone who's supported me.
“All the hard work I’ve done, it’s for everyone back home, and they'll be going crazy back in Huyton.”
Following Stalker into the ring was fellow Scouser Callum Smith. After impressively battling back from 4-1 down, the 20-year-old welterweight had to settle for silver as his opponent, Northern Ireland’s Patrick Gallagher, produced a stirring third round to take the bout 11-6.
Talking about the fight, Smith said: “I felt alright but after a bad start at 4-1 down I had to chase the fight and get back to 5-5 in the second round. I expended a lot of energy doing that and credit to Paddy for the way he finished the fight.”
After coming so close, Smith was clearly disappointed not to win gold but remained positive about his Delhi Games experience.
“My aim coming here was always just to get a medal, but having got into the final I really thought the gold was there for me.
“I’ve just got to keep remembering that I’ve only just turned 20 and that this is my first major tournament for my country. It feels a bit like I’ve thrown it away at the end just now, but I’m sure it will sink in that I’ve won a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games and I’ve really enjoyed the whole experience.”
Smith becomes the third member of his family to stand on the podium at the Commonwealth Games. And while he takes great pride in such a feat it is clear he is already thinking about taking the next step.
“My two older brothers Paul and Steve have both got Commonwealth medals, but hopefully I’ll be the first brother to be an Olympian,” he said.
“To have three medals in the family regardless of their colour is a great achievement. I don’t know of any other boxing family that has a record like that so I’m proud nonetheless.”
Boxing Day continues this evening with three more English boxers in the hunt for gold medals.
In the light welterweight division, Bradley Saunders goes up against Manoj Kumar and is likely to get a noisy reception from the partisan home crowd in support of their man.
Anthony Ogogo, who beat Indian boxing’s ‘David Beckham’, Vijender Singh, in the semi-final will fight Northern Irishman Eamonn O’Kane for the gold medal.
In the contest for the heavyweight title, Simon Vallily faces another Northern Irishman, Steven Ward.