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‘We all need to thank Audley Harrison’

In his Letter from America Tony Jeffries explains why British boxing owes Audley Harrison a debt of gratitude

IF Audley Harrison didn’t win that gold medal in the Sydney Olympics in 2000, I 100% guarantee that British boxing wouldn’t be where it is today.

That gold medal was the reason boxing got funding from the National Lottery. Straight after the 2000 games, Britain put together their eight-year training “world class boxing program".

This provided boxing with the funding required to hire national trainers and bring all national champions together to be able to train, travel and fight. They put a lot of money and attention into the 14-16-year-old champions and placed them on the plan – I was one of them.

At that age, by the end of the eight-year plan, the fighters would be aged 22-24. That’s a peak age for amateur boxers to compete in the Olympics and they were aiming for the 2008 Beijing Games.

With this money, they could send us around the world to give us the experience of fighting champions from different countries, which we needed if we were hoping to bring any medals back from Beijing.

In 2001, I was picked for the European Cadet championships and was part of a full team. I managed to win a gold medal and I was told at the time that this also helped boxing justify that their world-class training program was working.

We were traveling around the world getting some great results. A few years later, a 16-year-old national champion went to the junior world championships and won gold. That, of course, was Amir Khan.

He was put on the program, received the experience of fighting around the world, and in 2004, went to the Athens Games and won a silver medal. Without Audley’s money, would this have happened? As talented as Amir was, without that international experience that was paid for by this funding, I don’t think it would have.

It’s was kind of a snowball effect; the more they invested in us, the better results GB achieved.

In 2008, I won an Olympic bronze, as did David Price, and James Degale won gold. At the time I think this was the most success GB ever had in an Olympic games. Then 2012 saw Anthony Joshua, Luke Campbell, and Nicola Adams all winning gold medals in London, with Fred Evans getting silver and Anthony Ogogo a bronze.

At the Rio Olympics, we had nearly a full team qualify, with lives being changed all the time for all of us Olympians. Professional British boxing is now saturated with world class fighters that have benefited from this amateur boxing funding. This is all the way up to the current day and if you look at how well GB boxing has done since Audley won that gold medal compared to before 2000, I think everyone who is involved with British boxing will realize they have something to thank Audley Harrison for – I know I have!

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