Commonwealth Games: Wales team aiming for more boxing glory

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Meet the Welsh boxers going to the 2018 Commonwealth Games

Success and boxing have always gone together well in Wales.

The country has produced 12 professional world champions over the years - from the 'Mighty Atom' Jimmy Wilde a century ago to the undefeated Joe Calzaghe.

The most recent, Lee Selby, is aiming for a fifth successful title defence in May.

At the Commonwealth Games Wales has won 37 boxing medals, that's more than swimming or cycling.

But while the amateur scene is a world away from the riches on offer for the professionals, the seven Welsh boxers chosen for the 2018 Commonwealths believe the dedication is no different.

Sammy Lee celebrates winning a bout
Sammy Lee has won two British titles

"We train four times a day - pushing ourselves to the limit," says 19-year-old Sammy Lee, who won gold at the Commonwealth Youth Games in 2017 but is yet to have a senior bout.

"Watching Glasgow [the Commonwealth Games in 2014] at home on the telly I thought 'I want to be there next time. I've got to be on the team'."

'Proving women can actually box'

Four years ago Lee would have seen his now team-mate Lauren Price make history.

The 23-year-old from Bargoed became the first Welsh woman to win a Commonwealth boxing medal with her middleweight bronze in 2014.

The former footballer - who has played senior international football and was captain of Wales Under-19 - is eyeing up an even better result this time around.

"I was very unlucky in the semi-final [in Glasgow]," she tells BBC Sport Wales. "I lost to the two-time world champion. A lot of people thought I had her.

"My aim was to bring back a medal but my aim this time is to bring back gold."

Lauren Price does some bag work during a Wales team training session
Lauren Price has won medals at Commonwealth and European level

Price is now on GB Boxing's podium squad and could become Wales' first female boxer at an Olympics in 2020.

"After London 2012 everyone was amazed by the level of women's boxing," she says.

"As the years have gone on, now you can see it in the pro game.

"Katie Taylor's dominating and there's a lot of other girls who've come from the amateur game and are proving in the pro game that women can actually box."

'I walked into a boxercise class'

Price is already inspiring younger female boxers in Wales.

Rosie Eccles, 21, had only just put on a boxing glove when Price brought back bronze from Glasgow.

"When I was 15 I walked into a boxercise class," says Eccles, who went on to win her first 12 senior fights.

"I just put on the gloves and it felt like what I was meant to do.

Rosie Eccles takes part in a sparring session
Rosie Eccles is ranked in the top 10 in the world in her weight division

"Last Commonwealth Games I was watching and didn't think I'd get to the next one. I was watching Lauren and now we're on the team together.

"Silver medals don't get you out of bed in the morning. But the thought of having a gold one - that's everything really."

'We're expecting good performances'

The seven boxers - six of whom are under 24 - train four days a week at Welsh Boxing's headquarters in Cardiff.

The rest of the week is for a part-time jobs, university studies or - in most cases - more training.

The days in their Cardiff 'camp' are gruelling. They'll run up around hills in the Merthyr Tydfil area before breakfast, fit two gym and strength sessions either side of lunch and then finish the day with sparring in the ring.

The previous Commonwealth squad only had three days a week on the centralised programme but the nine boxers in 2014 still came back from Glasgow with five medals.

"I can't see any reason why we shouldn't get the same again," says Colin Jones, the team's lead coach who became British professional welterweight champion aged just 21 in 1980.

"There's a great talent we've got; a relative inexperience of international boxing at senior level, but we're expecting them to put in some good performances."

After winning medals at the 2014 Commonwealths, Sean McGoldrick and Joe Cordina have gone on to make undefeated starts to their professional careers.

Those days may yet come for the class of 2018, but there's more Welsh Commonwealth success to be had first.

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