Boxing wrap: Boxers look towards Gold Coast

Published 23 August 2016 (AEDT)

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 02: Shelley Watts (L), Daniel Lewis (C) and Jason Whateley of the Australian Boxing pose at the Olympic Village ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on August 2, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. © 2016 Getty Images

BOXING: Olympic debutants Daniel Lewis, Jason Whateley and Shelley Watts have vowed to use their Rio experience to steer them to Commonwealth Games success with all three committing to the 2018 event on the Gold Coast.

Whateley will be looking to make his Commonwealth Games debut, while Watts is the defending Commonwealth Games women’s lightweight (60kg) champion and Lewis is chasing redemption after being forced to exit the 2014 event in Glasgow with a cut, after being in strong medal contention.

Lewis, 22, of Londonderry in Sydney’s west, was the most successful campaigner in Rio, making the second round, while Watts, 29, and Whateley, 25, both lost in the first round as Australia chased its first Olympic boxing medal since 1988.

Lewis drew Uzbekistan’s world No. 2 champion Bektemir Melikuziev in round two and fought bravely before losing in a unanimous 3-0 decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-27). He won his opening round bout against Poland’s Tomasz Jablonski in a split 2-1 decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).

Lewis said that while his Olympic campaign finished earlier than he would have liked, it had been an “amazing” experience.

“I got a good win the other night against a tough boy (first round on Tuesday) and fighting the number two in the world,” he said.

“I lost to a good opponent so I can’t complain about that.

“The Olympics was amazing; everything was as good as I imagined. It really was a dream come true.”

Lewis plans to open his own boxing gym by the end of this year and return to training to prepare for the 2018 Commonwealth Games where he aims to win a gold medal and then turn professional.

“Professional boxers can still fight in the amateurs now,” he said. “It’s a new rule they have introduced recently so hopefully I will be able to fight in Tokyo in 2020.”

Whateley’s Olympic dream was over at the hands of Brazilian Juan Nogueira and a deafening home-crowd support in the first round of competition on day one.

The Victorian said an unbelievable roar filled the stadium in support his opponent, a hometown hero, who was awarded the bout with a unanimous 3-0 decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27).

“It has been an amazing experience to be here, not just the Olympics but even preparing for the Olympics,” Whateley said.

“It was very disappointing for me to under-perform here; but it was an awesome atmosphere fighting the Brazilian local in my fight.

“My main goals now are to focus on the Commonwealth Games at the Gold Coast.”

Watts suffered a shock first round elimination to lanky Italian Irma Testa in a 2-1 split decision (39-37, 37-39, 39-37) after a strong performance, a decision which Australian Olympic Boxing Team Assistant Coach Don Abnett said was a "hard pill to swallow".

Watts is now focused on defending her Commonwealth crown, but will return to her hometown of Laurieton on the mid-north coast of NSW to complete her law degree and look for work and opportunities to fund her boxing dream.

While Watts’ Olympic campaign was cut short she enjoyed the experience and was a popular member of the Australian Olympic Team, with an infectious personality that drew people in to share her journey.

“Waking up every day in this environment being able to wear this uniform; I pinch myself every day,” Watts said.

“I am loving the journey I am on at the moment. My law degree will be finished at the end of the year but it will take a back seat to boxing.

“I want to be best boxer I can be; I can’t do that while being a lawyer. But if my body doesn’t hold out on me I have a plan b.”

Tracie Edmondson

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