GREAT BRITAIN’S boxing squad are having to make major adjustments. Their European Olympic qualification event was called off only three days into the tournament. Tokyo 2020 has been postponed a whole year. It’s a bitter disappointment to the boxers, many of whom would have harboured their own ambitions of boxing professionally after these Olympics. Those plans will have to
be reassessed.

Frazer Clarke , who has spent years working towards these Games, described his first reaction to Boxing News. “It’s heart-breaking, honestly. I can’t put it into words. It’s my whole entire life,” he said. “For me, and for a lot of us, it’s what I’m banking on to get me on the highway to the rest of my life.”

“I was glad that it was rescheduled but at the same time my heart was in my mouth because it’s another year and you’ve got to qualify yet,” he added. “Don’t get me wrong I’m confident I’ll qualify but I’ve been around too long to know that anything can happen. You can break your hand two weeks before… Everything fell into place for now and was going really well, I felt.”

Britain could have a strong Olympic team, but they will need to keep that squad together. GB performance director Rob McCracken has spoken about the risk of losing athletes to professional boxing before Tokyo. “We are very aware of this situation which is why I have spent a lot of time since the qualifier talking to the boxers. It’s completely understandable that some of them needed some time to adjust to the situation, because it was a lot to take in, and having spoken to all of the senior boxers a number of times over the last few weeks I have been reassured by what they have said,” he explained. “Our boxers have spent a lot of years working towards the goal of going to the Olympic Games and I am hopeful that when sport does re-start, it will continue to be their immediate priority.”

The GB gym at the English Institute of Sport is of course shut down. Their boxers are training as best they can in isolation. “Everyone has been brilliant. The coaches and support staff moved very quickly to put things in place and the boxers have adapted well. We have provided the boxers with kit and equipment to train at home and all of them have been given individualised training programmes that reflect the kind of work they would do in a normal week in camp, including running, strength and conditioning, boxing sessions and technical work,” McCracken said. “The coaches and I are speaking regularly to all of the boxers and we’ve started to do some individual coaching sessions by video link.

“The sport science and medical team are continuing to work with the boxers and help with a range of things like injury prevention, rehabilitation and nutrition. Everyone is communicating well and, when needed, the physios and the medical team are doing consultations.

“It’s been a fantastic team effort by everyone. The coaches and support staff have done a great job in helping to create an environment that enables the boxers to continue as best they can in very difficult circumstances.”

They are also maintaining efforts to keep up the team spirit within the group. “We know this is a difficult time for everyone and that includes our boxers. So as well as giving them the means to be able to continue to train, we have put a lot of support in place to help them in terms of their mental health and keeping them connected, busy and stimulated,” Rob said. “Our performance analysis team have been sending them clips so that they can work on technical development and opponent analysis. Our psychologist and our performance lifestyle advisor are speaking to all of the boxers and the coaches and I are in regular contact so they know we are there to support them.

“There are lots of activities going on to try and keep the boxers busy and ensure that everyone in the world class programme feels connected as a group, even though we are operating in isolation.”