Boxing clever: Sam Loftus’ road to Olympic Games is well-worn path

OLYMPIC DREAM: Conor Loftus, above, is a Burmantofts ABC star with high hopes of competing in the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.
OLYMPIC DREAM: Conor Loftus, above, is a Burmantofts ABC star with high hopes of competing in the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.
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MEANWOoD puncher Conor Loftus has set his sights on becoming the latest Burmantofts ABC star to appear at an Olympic Games.

Loftus, 22, lost out to fellow English fighter Carl Frail in the 69kg category final at Thursday’s GB Boxing Championships at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield.

Yet in four years’ time the young Yorkshireman hopes to excel on a much grander stage altogether with the Leeds fighter having put several other alternative life plans on hold in a bid to reach the Olympic Games.

Having been educated at Cardinal Heenan Catholic High and then Bradford College, Loftus had the grades and ambition to excel at University but has decided instead to focus on attempting to thrive in the boxing ring.

The Leeds puncher won the Senior ABAs in both 2014 and 2015 and then joined the GB squad in the September of his second national triumph, ultimately quitting his day job as a result. Next year’s World Series Boxing is next on the agenda, with Loftus the latest talent to emerge from Burmantofts and following in the footsteps of Nicola Adams, Qais Ashfaq and Jack Bateson.

Adams became the first ever women’s boxer to win back-to-back golds by topping the podium in the women’s flyweight at both London 2012 and Rio 2016, while Ashfaq also boarded the plane for this year’s spectacular in the men’s bantamweight.

Bateson looked set to do likewise until being frustrated by injury and is now weighing up his options over whether to bid for Tokyo 2020 or turn pro.

And now Leeds and Burmantofts can add Loftus into the mix – a boxer not afraid to highlight his Olympic ambitions and a fighter determined to do both his club and city proud.

Casting his mind back to his early days at Burmantofts ABC, Loftus recalled: “When I was sort of first starting out in the gym I would pester some of the coaches and say can I spa with Jack, can I spar with Qais and what have you and they would say ‘no, no, no, these lads are way more experienced than you’.

“But eventually I was sparring and I would take a beating or they would get the better of me but that’s how I learnt best.

“We’ve had such talent in the gym and such successful boxers that it’s sort of brought me on at the rate that it did.

“In terms of what are my chances of making it to Tokyo, four years is a long time and it’s a long road.

“You only have to look at Jack for example to know how quickly things can change.

“You could be almost dead set and people were almost betting their house that Jack would make it to the Olympics until he had a little bit of an injury and somebody comes in and takes over at the last six months or so.

“And then that’s it – you have got sort of three-and-a-half years hard work which has not gone down the drain because you have still achieved a lot in that time but the ultimate goal has been snatched from you almost.”

The latest goal for Loftus came in Thursday’s GB Boxing Championships which ended in defeat. The next aim is to shine in the World Series Of Boxing in the new year, but not before relaxing at Christmas and finally catching up with long-term girlfriend Alex, who is studying a joint honours in business and geography at The University Of Glasgow ahead of he return to her hometown of Leeds later this month. Loftus, though, put his own university ambitions on hold.

“I could have gone to university,” he added. “I had the grades to do so – but that was something that I deemed was almost going to be a barrier to the boxing pathway that I wanted to take.”

The pathway has been well worn by the likes of Adams, Ashfaq and Bateson, and there is no denying for Loftus just what boarding the plane to Tokyo 2020 would mean.

“Most people say that, sort of, from nine-years-old I wanted to go to the Olympics but I started off boxing as a bit of fun,” he said. “It sort of developed and it got to the stage at sort of 15-16 where I thought well, do you know what, I am going places with this, I might start taking it a bit seriously. It was probably from that age but it definitely is a lifelong dream and that’s what I am boxing for. Although I love the sport, I don’t do it out of the pure love for it, I box because I want to go to the Olympics.”