LEEDS boxer Conor Loftus admits the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be at the forefront of every boxer’s mind at tonight’s GB Boxing Championships at the English Institute of Sport Sheffield.
Buoyed by his best-ever year at a new weight of 64kg, the 23-year-old is confident of ending his own year in style to banish the nervy demons of 2016.
Loftus will take on England’s Martin McDonagh as one of 16 bouts at tonight’s finals which pits the winners of the 2017 Elite Three Nations competition against a boxer from the GB Boxing squad.
The competition provides an opportunity for boxers from England, Scotland and Wales that are not currently part of the Olympic boxing programme to force their way into the reckoning for Tokyo by defeating a boxer from the GB Boxing squad and securing an assessment to join the World Class Performance Programme as a funded athlete.
Loftus has been on the GB Podium Squad for 18 months but suffered disappointment in his first crack at the GB Boxing Championship’s this time last year when beaten by Carl Frail in the 69kg category.
But the Yorkshireman has since dropped down to the 64kg weight and the Leeds puncher is out to prove he is a different proposition 12 months on.
“I’ve almost got a little bit of a bad omen when it comes to the GB Championships,” said Loftus.
“A lot of friends and family come to watch and I suffer with nerves a little bit and I think it gets to my performance a little bit sometimes.
“But I’ve come down in the weights and after the success I have had this year, both in the World Series of Boxing and in the Tammer Tournament in Finland where I won gold, I’m hoping that’s not the case this year.
“My confidence is at an all time high.”
Three Yorkshire-based boxers will be in action with Leeds star and reigning European champion Natasha Gale from Leeds taking on England’s Roseanna Cox in the women’s 75kg bout.
Gale’s middleweight gold at last year’s Europeans emulated the feat of eventual double Olympic champion Nicola Adams who also savoured Europeans joy in 2011.
Bradford’s Harris Akbar also locks horns with Scotland’s Stephen Newns in Sheffield in the 69kg men’s category.
Akbar will be looking to put pressure on GB’s current no 1 boxer at the weight in Pat McCormack.
Likewise, Loftus knows a victory for him personally would be just the tonic considering the Leeds fighter is currently behind Luke McCormack in the GB pecking order with Sheffield’s Dalton Smith also snapping at the pair’s heels.
Just one boxer at each weight represents GB at the major international tournaments and April’s Commonwealth Games in Queensland, Australia present next year’s main aim.
Loftus, though, admits it is the Tokyo 2020 Olympics that will ultimately be at the forefront of every boxer’s minds.
Loftus admitted: “That’s what we are all on this squad for and that’s why essentially now I am an amateur boxer – because I want to reach those Olympics.
“That’s the biggest platform in amateur boxing so that is the dream. I think it’s going to be difficult for me to try and take that no 1 spot because Luke performed so well in the major tournaments this year – the Europeans and the Worlds. They are the biggest tournaments on the calendar this year so to try and overthrow him – he’s been there and I haven’t – will be quite difficult.
“But I can only try my best.
“We will keep fighting on and see how it unravels in the months and the years to come.”
Doors open tonight at 6.30pm with boxing beginning at 7pm at the English Institute of Sport.
Tickets are on sale now, priced £10 at http://www.ticketsdirect.org.uk/gbchamps/EntryForm.aspx.
Groups who purchase ten tickets will receive two free tickets.