Glasgow 2014: Boxer Warren Baister eyes gold after comeback

By Gemma CollisBBC Kick Off reporter
Warren Baister throws a punch
Baister narrowly missed out on London 2012 after defeat in the European Qualifiers
Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games
Dates: 23 July - 3 AugustCoverage: Live on BBC TV, HD, BBC Radio 5 live, Red Button, Connected TVs, online, tablets and mobiles

For a boxer, speed is everything. Footwork and the ability to keep moving as a fight progresses and fatigue sets in can be the difference between winning and losing.

However, for Sunderland heavyweight boxer Warren Baister, a freak injury sustained in training nearly prematurely ended a promising career.

The 28-year-old sustained a lisfranc ligament injury to his right foot during a sparring session, which is a type only usually seen amongst car-crash victims.

Baister and his doctors were left doubting whether he would be able to return to the sport.

"The surgeon said it's pretty much a 50/50 chance of running again," Baister told BBC Newcastle.

"I needed tightrope fixation to secure the bones in my foot. It was seven months before I took my first steps without the aid of crutches, and 10 months before I could manage a run.

"Eventually I returned to the ring after a year out."

It was not the first time the Wearsider - who is a two-time ABAE Seniors winner - had faced adversity, having been under the knife three times in four years while he battled to establish himself as one of Britain's leading amateurs.

In 2009, after a successful first season in the GB boxing squad, he ruptured the joints across the back of his hand causing instability which required a bone graft to fix and, after further problems, underwent surgery for a second time a year later.

Following both operations, Baister was forced to take three months out of training before he was allowed to punch again.

Now the fighter, who competes at the heavyweight 91kg classification, is "as fit as he has ever been" and has an opportunity to put his biggest disappointment behind him.

Two years ago he was among the favourites to make the Great Britain Olympic Games squad, but failed to qualify after losing to Tervel Pulev, the eventual winner and Olympic bronze medallist, in the quarter-finals of the European Qualifiers in Turkey.

Selection for Team England at the Commonwealth Games has helped to numb the pain of missing London 2012.

"After the tournament [European Qualifiers] I went on a bit of a lull. I was a bit depressed," he added.

Warren Baister career highlights
Senior ABAE Championship winner in 2008 and regained in 2014
Twice winner of the Tammer Tournament in Finland - 2009 and 2011
British champion in 2011

"Everything I'd worked for had pretty much gone. But [after selection for 2014] I was proud, very proud. It was a nice feeling - to the fact that it's a proper games, it's the next biggest thing to the Olympics.

"But now I've got these, it has softened the blow. I'm going to give it everything I've got."

Warren now has his eyes set firmly on gold in Glasgow, believing in the work he has been doing in preparation for his Commonwealth debut.

"For myself I've got to get the gold, I can see myself being disappointed with anything else," he continued.

"I've trained so hard for it, never cut any corners, so I know in the back of my mind once the bell goes, I've got nothing to worry about.

"I know I can just do my thing and I'm pretty sure I'll come out on top."

Having spent the majority of his career boxing abroad, the Sunderland boxer is now relishing the opportunity to box just over the border in front of his friends and family, hoping they can give him that little bit extra.

"It's always a boost to have them there. It makes me want to win more," Baister said.

"Each time they have been there I've put in a very good performance and more times than not I've won, so hopefully this will be the same here."