Boxer swaps his burger van for medal chance
It has not been a ring of roses all the way in Beijing for British boxers, but when 23-year-old light-heavyweight Tony Jeffries joins super-heavyweight David Price in Friday's semi-finals it will be the first time since Munich in 1972 that Britain has won more than one medal.
Like Price, Jeffries is assured of at least a bronze after his emphatic 10-2 points victory over Hungarian Imre Szello. The former burger van man from Sunderland, who is perhaps the most unprepossessing member of the British team, is not the most explosive of fighters, often more Tentative Tony than Dynamite Dave, but he boxed fluently from the start, effectively employing sharp combinations to overwhelm the Hungarian and force him to take a standing count in the final round.
"It's unbelievable, a dream come true," said Jeffries. "I've dedicated my life to getting to the Olympics and winning a medal."
Jeffries bought his van for £4,500 off eBay and this time last year was selling burgers and hot dogs to the football crowds outside the Stadium of Light to help pay for his boxing training. Before that he worked as a doorman, but gave it up "because of too many late nights."
After his Olympic qualification he was given an improved Lottery grant which enabled him to become a full-time fighter, and he sold his van – for a £500 profit. "It served its purpose and kept me going," he said.
He gets to sleep at night by jotting down rhyming couplets on a notepad beside his bed, and hopefully he can put his new-found pugilistic poetry into motion again on Friday. His semi-final opponent is Dublin's Kenny Egan, who with light-fly Paddy Barnes became the first Irish medal winners in any sport in Beijing last night. Jeffries has lost previously to the clever southpaw, on a cut eye.
"It will be hard," he admits. "I am not saying I will win, but I believe I can."
Tomorrow, middleweight James DeGale aims to complete a treble of British medallists but also has a formidable task against Bakhtiyar Artayev, of Kazakhstan, the 2004 Olympic welterweight champion.