PEMBROKESHIRE boxer Ioan Croft underlined his credentials as a major contender for a place in Great Britain’s team for the 2024 Paris Olympics by winning a silver medal at Finland’s prestigious Gee Bee tournament at the weekend.
Having earlier outpointed the Netherlands’ Tony Jos in the quarter-finals, the 21-year-old southpaw received a bye into the final when Denmark’s Nikolai Terteryan pulled out of their scheduled semi-final bout.
This left the Cardigan ABC man contesting the gold medal against Oman Jones, of the United States – a silver medalist at last year’s world championships.
Croft boldly took the fight to his American opponent, who proved a slick counter puncher off the back foot.
For Ioan’s dad – Cardigan ABC head coach Guy Croft – the outcome of the fight proved bitter-sweet.
“I thought Ioan deserved the win,” he said. “The American hardly laid a glove on him. Why do judges like this type of boxer so much?
“I think Ioan boxed so well – he kept his stance and space, got his timing spot-on and went forward the whole time.
“Oman won a silver medal at the last world championships, so that’s the level we’re at.
“I’m so proud of Ioan – he looked class.”
Ioan and twin brother Garan suffered a blow earlier this year when it emerged that a change in the Olympic weight programme meant they are both competing for the 71kg slot on the GB team – although they will never fight one another.
Ioan won Commonwealth Games gold at 67kg last year, while Garan took bronze in the 71kg light-middleweight division – as well as a silver at the European championships.
“I’m left with little choice, to be honest, because I’ll never make 63.5kg,” reflected Ioan.
“I found making 67kg a bit tight, but do-able, and now I’ve had to move up to 71kg.
“It’s not ideal, but it’s what we’re working with at the moment.”
Garan admitted the twins now find themselves in ‘an awkward situation’ they had never previously envisaged.
“But we’re just going to have to go for it ourselves and be mature about it and do what’s best,” he added.
Meanwhile, Cardigan junior Max Kirkwood won on a split decision against John Lee (Ashley Brace ABC) and clubmates Mikey O’Sullivan, Josh Mellor and Billy Myers are lined up to compete in the Welsh Elite and Youth championships.