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British Boxers Excel in London Olympic Test Finals
By Michael O’Neill
November 28, 2011


(NOV 28) Great Britain, had a triumphant final day at the London International Invitational (The Olympic Test event) here at the Excel Centre in London’s Docklands, coming away with five gold medals in all including Golds in two of the three women’s categories.

Liverpool’s Natasha Jonas took the 60 kg Lightweight crown whilst Hartlepool’s Savannah Marshall struck Gold in the 75kg Middleweight event.

Jonas, who boxes out of the Rotunda ABC, gave a fine demonstration of controlled boxing as she scored a 16-10 victory over the world number two, Cheng Dong of China. Earlier in the tournament, Natasha overcame world number four, Quinitta Underwood from the United States, and the number seven ranked, young Russian Anastasia Belyakova.

Yet she cannot be sure of her place in the GB team for the only women’s qualifier in China, since there are other equally strong contenders like Amanda Coulson (also from Hartlepool) and Northampton’s former kick-boxing champion, Chantelle Cameron.

GB’s second victory on Sunday came when Marshall gained a 13-10 victory over Dariga Shakimova of Kazhakstan. Marshall seemed nervous to begin with but grew in confidence as the bout progressed. It was her first gold medal at the Olympic middleweight (75kg) category - she moved-up from Welterweight (69kg), where she was ranked number two in the world, at the start of 2011. She has been steadily improving ,whilst in training at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield, where the GB Olympic Podium squad is based.

At this early stage of her career though Marshall is not yet in the same class as say Canada’s Mary Spencer but will be ‘there or thereabouts’ in London 2012. In Saturday’s semi-final she had a close call , winning 14:12 against Franchon Crews of the United States who put up a great fight and is also capable of improving further in the months ahead.

Commenting on her Lightweight win against her Chinese opponent, Natasha (Jonas) said: “It is massive for me to have beaten the world No.2. It is always good to get a win, but especially against somebody like Dong Cheng. She is just so awkward and tall and she knows how to use that to her advantage. It is the biggest victory of my career.” She recently took Gold at the 64kg weight in Rotterdam at the European Championships and IF she does represent GB then is certainly one to watch at London 2012.

Savannah Marshall said after her win : “I haven’t won gold since March 2010, so I’m really pleased with the way this week has gone. This is only my third tournament at 75kg and I’m still just getting the feel of it. I feel I am getting stronger and this will give me confidence for the world championships next year. I want to thank my home coach Tim Coulter (head trainer at Headland Boxing Club, Hartlepool) and everyone at GB Boxing.”

This is how the ABAE reported their team’s successes:

“60kg: Natasha Jonas (England) v Cheng Dong (China) 16:10

A fantastic display from the Rotunda boxer sees her win the gold medal here in London. The first round of the final saw Dong move into a 5-3 lead, but Natasha struck back with some fine straight hitting to win the second 3-0 and the third 4-1 and take a four point lead into the final round. The gap was too big for the Chinese boxer to close and a composed final round from Natasha saw her to a 16-10 win and GB's first gold medal of the day.

75kg: Savannah Marshall (England) v Dariga Shakimova (Kazhakstan) 13:10

Team GB's second gold of the day as Savannah boxed her way to the win against the tough Kazakh. Three lovely left-hooks allowed Savannah to open up a 4-3 lead in the first round, and two points apiece left it 6-5 at the halfway mark. The Hartlepool boxer continued to fire in the cleaner punches to extend the lead to two points going into the last. A solid final round saw Savannah win the gold .”

The 48-51kg Flyweight title went to Russia’s Oleysya Gladkova who proved too strong for French titleholder Sarah Ourahmoune winning 16:8 and deservedly so. The 31 yrs. old Gladkova from Norosibizisk, started boxing in 2000 and has been Russian and European champion several times since. She has also been an accomplished kick boxing star and loves racing fast cars when time permits. The Russian is sure to be one of the favourites for London 2012 together with India’s Mery Kom and GB’s Nikki Adams who has been most impressive in 2011 thus far, albeit she did not take part in this event.

Bearing in mind that London 2012 is still some 242 days away, it would be a brave (or foolish!) pundit who would predict who will win here in this stadium in August but using my ‘Crystal Ball’ I go for Nikki Adams (GB), Katie Taylor (Ireland) and Mary Spencer (Canada).

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