- 18 Aug 08, 09:21 PM
Workers' Gymnasium, Beijing
Let's hear no more talk of Great Britain only winning medals sitting down/astride something or in the water or going backwards (or all three at once).
We've finally won one on our feet, on dry land and going forward. Take a bow, David Price.
The 6ft 8in super-heavyweight will return home to Liverpool with no worse than a bronze but, given his serene progress thus far, will be disappointed if he can't upgrade that.
Price became the first member of Team GB's boxing squad to book some bling when he forced Jaroslav Jaksto to retire after the first round of their quarter-final on Monday.
The limping Lithuanian said afterwards a muscle spasm in his lower back was to blame and that may well be true, but the huge smack in the chops probably didn't help either.
That was one of at least three good shots Price landed on his way to a deserved 3-1 lead.
"I caught him with a couple of big right-hands and I'm not really sure what happened to his leg," said Price.
"It's a great feeling but a bit of an anti-climax the way it happened. I'm not going to complain, though. A win is a win and I think I was going to do him anyway."
He is almost certainly right, and in many ways Jaksto's injury robbed Price of a more complete revenge against an opponent who had beaten him when the Englishman was "less mature".
Maturity has been a recurring theme for the Commonwealth champion in Beijing. Clearly a much stronger man physically than he was even 18 months ago, the 25-year-old is starting to realise how good he can be.
The last member of the eight-strong British boxing team to qualify for the Olympics, Price has been leading from the front here. Voted captain by the rest of the team, it was Price who picked everybody up after a rough start to the tournament.
First, the team was deprived of its brightest medal hope when Frankie Gavin failed to make the weight before the tournament deadline. Then a number of the team, Price included, were handed tough draws. And finally, bantamweight Joe Murray was beaten in slightly controversial fashion by home fighter Gu Yu.
Fighting the day after Murray's defeat, Price decided to take the judges out of the equation - he hit his opponent Islam Timurziev with two huge shots and the referee stopped the fight 30 seconds into the second round.
Timurziev, the world number one, looked utterly stunned by what had just happened. But as Price and Team GB's coach Terry Edwards pointed out, he had never been hit that hard before.
Jaksto and Timurziev can compare notes now, and while Price understands he is fortunate to have reached the semis after only two rounds of boxing he also knows he is due some good fortune.
His next opponent, the reigning world champion Roberto Cammarelle, beat him in their only previous meeting at the 2004 European Championships, a defeat that prevented Price from going to the Athens Olympics.
The two were set for a rematch in the last eight of the world championships last November, when both men blitzed their way through the first three rounds of competition in Chicago, but a hand injury forced Price to give the Italian a walkover.
"That was one of the low points of my career," he recalled. "But we always knew we'd meet him somewhere down the line."
On Friday he'll get that meeting and another chance to test his growing maturity.
"I can definitely beat him," he continued. "He knows I could have made it very hard for him at the worlds. I'm a completely different fighter to what I was four years ago.
"I know I've got the tools to beat him and I've got everything to gain."
He won't be short of support. His girlfriend and close family came out on Monday - "It was great to have them here but it also made me nervous, I wanted to give them an excuse to go out for a bevvy" - and more are on the way.
And he is right to be confident. He has clearly read the Audley Harrison manual on how to win Olympic boxing medals - if you have a reach advantage for goodness sake use it and keep your guard up - but he has also added power to his repertoire.
Edwards believes this is a result of Price fully growing into his frame.
"Four years ago he was a boy in a man's body," said the coach. "He's come along tremendously since then. He's got size, he's got reach and he uses that to his advantage."
He will need to against the canny Cammarelle, who looked pretty good in his quarter-final against Colombian bruiser Oscar Rivas but will be concerned at how much harder he had to work than Price. The other semi-final pits Ukrainian Vyacheslav Glazkov, the man Cammarelle beat in the final in Chicago, against Zhilei Zhang of China.
Zhang, only marginally shorter than Price, looked dangerous in his last-eight contest against Ruslan Myrsatayev. He put the tough Kazakh on the canvas twice and his languid, hands-low style delighted the home crowd and reminded me of a famous former Olympic champion.
Zhang confirmed this later: "Muhammad Ali is my idol, I learned my footwork from him."
He's not that good but in this gym he won't need to be. Should Price get the chance, he will need to keep sticking that long left in Zhang's face until there can be absolutely no doubt the Chinese fighter has felt it.
But first comes Cammarelle - an enormous step for Price and the British team.
The Gavin affair has been parked, not pardoned, and with only two other fighters - middleweight James DeGale and light-heavyweight Tony Jeffries - left in the competition, the pressure is on the team Edwards described as our "best prepared ever". The official target was for two medals but many were not so privately hoping for three.
Price has now delivered one of those but will need Jeffries (on Tuesday) and DeGale (on Wednesday) to follow his lead to make this a par return for British boxing.
Britain hasn't won as many as three boxing medals at an Olympics since 1972, but with golds being added to GB's honours list daily, and new "best evers since..." coming thick and fast, it is time for one of the standing sports to pull up a chair and join the party.
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