Great Britain’s boxing team remain focused on the quest for continental success at the European Games in Minsk despite continued confusion over the sport’s Olympic future.
Wins for Peter McGrail, Pat McCormack and Galal Yafai swept them into the quarter-finals of their respective categories but there was a surprise defeat for super-heavyweight Frazer Clarke.
The tournament in Minsk – which doubles as the regular European Championships – was to have provided important qualification points towards the Tokyo Olympics before governing body AIBA was stripped of its powers by the International Olympic Committee.
Officials at the sport’s crisis-hit governing body have kept an uncharacteristically low profile in Minsk for what could, by their own admission, be one of the final major tournaments that they are financially able to organise.
Inevitable questions have begun to be raised over the viability of this year’s World Championships in Russia, let alone the route to Tokyo, but the boxers are adamant they must stay strictly focused on the task in hand.
McGrail, who is aiming to retain the European title he won in Kharkiv two years ago, said: “This might not be a qualifying event any more but the better you do in this tournament it could still be important.
“You are still making yourself well-known to the judges and the fans and you don’t know what is going to happen so you just have to concentrate on continuing to put the good performances in.”
The Liverpool bantamweight is increasingly being held up as a medal contender for Tokyo and nothing about his classy, unanimous points win over Belgium’s Vasile Usturoi suggested otherwise.
Yafai, who had to settle for silver in Kharkiv, is also fast emerging as a major contender and he insisted he still had to make much improvement despite a comprehensive win over Hungarian flyweight Martin Virban.
“I’ve got to do better against better opposition if I’m going to get that gold medal,” said Yafai. “I’ve come close in a couple of tournaments and I need to start winning those titles now.”
In his second fight in the competition, McCormack came through a frustrating welterweight contest against Estonia’s Pavel Karmanin, winning every round against an outclassed opponent.
But there was a shock for Clarke, last year’s Commonwealth Games gold medallist, who admitted he never got going against Germany’s Nelvie Tiafack as he dropped a surprisingly tight 3-2 verdict.
“I felt a bit flat in there and something wasn’t right,” said Clarke. “I’m at the stage of my career where I shouldn’t still be learning. I have to take the blame and prepare to come back again.”
Elsewhere, Frazer Chamberlain missed out on a medal in the men’s judo 90kg category when he was beaten by Dutchman Noel Van’t End in the competition’s last eight.