Watts ready for Rio ring

Published 10 August 2016 (AEDT)

BOXING: Shelley Watts’ is loving every minute of her Olympic journey and, like the Piped Piper, her infectious enthusiasm is drawing everyone she meets with her on the journey that could see Australia break its 28-year Olympic boxing medal drought.

When Watts makes her Olympic debut on Friday night (5.45pm) in the same session as teammate Daniel Lewis (7.30pm) competes in his second fight, she will have her family and almost the whole of her small NSW hometown of Laurieton cheering her on, as well as a strong contingent of Australian Olympic athletes in Rio.

The pair will also be carrying the hopes of the nation that last won an Olympic boxing medal in 1988 and has never won an Olympic boxing gold medal; and with women’s boxing only introduced in 2012, has yet to win an Olympic women’s boxing medal also.

But don’t think that will bother Watts, 29 today, in her Preliminary Round bout against Italian Irma Testa, 18, and, if successful, her next fight against the French No. 2 seed and current world champion Estelle Mossely (Monday, August 15).

“She is never fazed or bothered by anything,” said Australian Olympic boxing coach Kevin Smith.

Smith, who has coached national teams in England, Scotland, Nigeria and the Philippines, said Watts is “as good as any” boxer he has coached.

"She brings everything to the table,” he said.

"She is as determined as they come. If anyone has her desire I would be shocked … and she has the talent.

“She is totally focussed; everything goes out in the ring with her.”

Of her 11 opponents in Rio, Australia’s first Commonwealth Games women’s boxing champion has fought against two and sparred with five of them.

“I really think I can shake up the 60kg (division),” Watts said. “I have some stuff in my arsenal they will not be expecting.”

Watts took up boxing in 2010 for rehabilitation and fitness after injuring her leg playing soccer and, despite winning her first national title in 2011, did not start thinking about or preparing for Rio until after she won the Commonwealth Games gold medal in 2014. She qualified for Rio at the 2016 Asia/ Oceania Qualification Tournament in China in April.

“I have no doubt I will be nothing less than 100 per cent ready,” Watts said. “I am feeling really good, mentally strong, fitter and sharper.”

Post Olympics, Watts is keen to win back-to-back Commonwealth Games titles and will continue training for the 2018 Games at the Gold Coast.

“I am loving the journey I am on at the moment,” Watts said.

“My law degree will be finished at end of year but it will take a back seat to boxing (for now).

“I want to be the 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.”

Meanwhile, teammate Lewis is now preparing to face Uzbekistan’s No. 2 seed Bektemir Melikuziev in the second round of the middleweight division (75kg) on Friday night (7.30pm), after beating Poland’s Tomasz Jablonski in a split decision last night.

To make the gold medal round on August 20, he has to win the next three rounds; while Watts needs to win through three to make the gold medal round on August 19.

Tracie Edmondson 

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