CHARLEY DAVISON has been back in camp with GB and enters her first tournament of what will be a busy year next week, the Strandja competition in Bulgaria, beginning on Monday (February 20). After the bitter disappointment of losing in her second bout at the Tokyo Olympics, Davison has returned for a run at Paris 2024.
It was a decision that needed some thought. The mother of three spent the last few months of 2021 tuning out of boxing, spending time with her family while she considered her future. Committing to GB means she has to be away from her Lowestoft home from Monday to Thursday of every week in camp, or abroad for extended periods for training or international tournaments.
“I was hurt obviously and I was going through a hard time. I was really down, and just angry [after Tokyo]. But I sat down, I said to myself what is the point of me chucking this talent away when there’s still a lot more to give. And if I’ve got the potential still to be up there at world level and give it one more shot, what am I going to lose from it? I enjoy the boxing, I enjoy the sport,” Charley tells Boxing News. “You can’t do it if you’re not enjoying it, you have to give it your full 100 percent, so I believe in me coming back and giving myself one more go.
“I’ll be 31 by the time Paris [the next Olympics] comes around and it’s a good sort of age, my peak, being my last shot.”
It had been a remarkable enough feat for her to qualify for the Tokyo Games. Davison had taken seven years out of the sport when she returned just for fitness. But she ended up winning the national Elite championships in 2019. That saw her brought onto the GB squad in 2020 and she was a surprise selection for the Olympic qualifier that year. Despite the accelerated pace of her career she won a place to go to the Tokyo Games at 51kgs.
“Running up to the Olympics, everything progressed so fast, I had to rush everything,” she explained. “I was just making the most of everything I could get very quickly.”
“I needed time off. That time I had off, them few months, really helped me because I feel so much fresher, I’m enjoying the sport a lot more now,” Charley continued. “Just to live a normal life, just to be around the children, just to eat and not worry about weight. Obviously I had to always be on weight because I had to prove for one that I could make 51kgs, because there were doubts I could make it because I’m quite big for the weight. I was new to the programme so I had to prove to people I am around to go to this Olympics, I can do it and I didn’t want to give them any sort of doubt at all.”
Her experience in Tokyo was invaluable. “As soon as you enter that Village, that’s a different world. You see all the athletes, you really see on people’s faces how important it is. Just everything about it is so surreal but it sinks in after a few days when you’re there. It was amazing. I loved it,” Davison said. “I couldn’t actually believe I’d qualified. It took ages to sink in I’m actually an Olympian already and then you go to the actual Olympics and you box on the telly and loads of people are watching it.
“[Her children] understand now 100 percent more. At school when the Olympics was on they were all sharing posts about and talking about the Olympics.
“Family, friends, my children’s school, everyone, still so proud. They were really happy for me.”
Unseeded, she boxed a top flyweight, China’s Yuan Chang in her second bout. She lost the decision but did not look out of place. “It was hard. It was hard to take that loss but I gained a lot from it. So there was positives too,” she said. “The experience I gained even from losing was massive. You can’t buy that experience, going to the Olympic Games, being around all them top athletes, it’s mad.”
A pep talk from men’s flyweight Olympic champion Galal Yafai has refocused her on Paris 2024. “He’d just got onto the programme [in 2016], he literally had little experience like I did, chucked into his first Olympics,” Charley said. “He qualified but he didn’t medal. He done what I done. He went to the next one and he medalled. And hopefully that’s what I could do.
“For me to be told that from a person who’s been through it himself, that really helped me.”
But in the Olympic year, because of Covid restrictions, apart from the qualifier itself she was only able to box in one small tournament before the Games.
That will be very different this year. There’s the Standja this month. In May, the delayed women’s World championships takes place. It’s just desperately unfortunate that the European Boxing confederation has scheduled the women’s European championships to clash with the Commonwealth Games.
The Europeans are a higher standard than the Commonwealths. They’re considered a major tournament and ranking points for eventual Olympic qualification will be available there. GB has to prioritise them. “Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have a Commonwealth title,” she reflects, “but if it’s going to help me in the long run to have a Europeans then miss the Commonwealths…”
The main thing of course will be getting the experience she’s been denied so far. “Just go everywhere, just gain so much experience, it’s so exciting,” she says. “I’ve not really been interested in going pro. My main goal since I was eight years old was to get an Olympic medal. That why I’ve been involved in amateur boxing for so long.”
And, she adds, “It’s Paris and the children can come on the train, it’s going to be a lot better.
“My main goal this year is for the Worlds and the Europeans then see what happens from there.”