Whateley fighting fit for Brazilian test

Published 6 August 2016 (AEDT)

BOXING: A 13-week preparation in five cities has Olympic debutant heavyweight Jason Whateley confident of success in the first of five fights he needs to win in nine days to claim Australia’s first ever Olympic boxing gold medal.

Whateley, 25, said training camps in Canberra, Brisbane, Gold Coast, and Colorado Springs and Miami in the USA, have him in the best shape of his career for his Olympic debut against the local favourite, Brazilian Juan Nogueira, on the opening day of the Rio Olympic Games (1pm Saturday, 6 August Rio time, 2am AEST Sunday, 7 August)

“I am feeling the fittest I have ever been going into a tournament,” Whateley said.

“I’ve had a longer preparation than usual, but I feel great. I haven’t over-trained.

“In the fight game, anything is possible. No one can be overlooked. I feel like it is our time.”

Australian assistant coach Don Abnett agreed and believes all three of Australia’s Olympic boxing debutants – Whateley, Daniel Lewis and Shelley Watts – are legitimate contenders to end Australia’s 28-year Olympic boxing medal drought.

Graham ‘Spike’ Cheney won Australia’s last Olympic boxing medal, a silver, in Seoul in 1988.

“You come to the Olympics not to fight regular champions but a national champion from another country and they all come here to get the gold medal,” Abnett said.

“I often see that boxers who don’t get on the podium at World Championships get on the podium at the Olympic Games.

“You have to watch them all … but I would like to think our athletes are the ones to watch.”

If Whateley beats Nogueira in the first session of the heavyweight (91kg) division, his next bout will be against No.1 seed, Russian Evgeny Tishchenko.

“With 18 starters in the heavyweight field there is no real good or bad side of the draw,” Whateley said.

“You have to beat them all to win the medal. I just want to get in there and get into it.

“I am really pleased to be going first.”

Whateley qualified for Rio after securing a bronze medal at the 2016 Asia / Oceanic Olympic Qualification Tournament in China in April. He also won back-to-back national heavyweight titles in 2015 and 2016, after four successive silver medals.

Whateley, who was born in Sale, in Victoria’s Gippsland region, only took up boxing when he was 17 after winning an annual charity boxing 'grudge' match between two local Australian Rules football clubs.

After winning it with a TKO with just seven weeks of boxing training, he was hooked.

His trainer at the time told him “the sky is the limit” and he decided to “have a real crack at it”.

But if his mum had her way, Whateley would have started boxing much sooner.

“My mum tried to get me into a gym to box when I was six, but they wouldn’t let me, I was too young,” he said.

“My uncles all fought and my mum loved it. She thought it would be good for me, to teach me some discipline.

“I was always a big fan, too, growing up. I had tapes of Mike Tyson and (Muhammad) Ali.”

Whateley’s transition from Australian Rules football to boxing was rapid and in 2010 he contested his first national championship, winning what would be the first of four successive silver medals in four years, as well as being selected for a tour of Cuba.

“I felt I had a lot to learn as a novice as I had only been training for 18 months, but what I saw of the boxers in Cuba gave me confidence that, with a bit more experience, there was no reason I couldn’t beat these guys,” he said.

Whateley continued to work on his boxing career at Lakes Entrance in regional Victoria, but soon found he had to move to Melbourne.

“When I started boxing I was doing my butchers’ apprenticeship Monday to Friday at Lakes Entrance and I would drive to Melbourne every Friday night until Sunday to spar,” he said.

“It got too much and my parents were living in Melbourne, so it made sense to move.”

He moved to Box Hill South in Melbourne’s east, while also managing his own gym, Pure Boxing, where he works as a personal trainer. He juggles 30 hours of work with two-and-a-half hours of training per day.

“Winning a medal would change my life … it would be a dream come true,” Whateley said.

Tracie Edmondson




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