Joshua ices boxing cake
British squad exceeds loftiest expectations
Last Updated: August 13, 2012 11:43am
Anthony Joshua's dramatic super-heavyweight triumph in the last fight of the Olympic boxing tournament put the seal on the finest performance by a Great Britain boxing team for over a century.
Not since 1908 had so many British boxers found themselves in an Olympic final, and the trio of golds for Joshua, Luke Campbell and Nicola Adams also eclipsed the double gold haul from the Melbourne Games in 1956.
The result was that, along with silver for Fred Evans and bronze for Anthony Ogogo, Great Britain proudly finished at the top of the boxing medals table ahead of the sport's traditional super-powers such as Cuba, Ukraine and Russia.
It was a triumph for head coach Rob McCracken, who spent four years moulding his elite squad at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield as they sought to eclipse the three medals won by the team in Beijing four years ago.
"The whole team has been tremendous," said McCracken afterwards. "Even the boxers who did not medal have supported the others and played a big part in their success. I would like nothing more than to continue with this team for the build-up to Rio."
Joshua naturally made big headlines for his victory in the iconic super-heavyweight category, as he stormed back from a three-point deficit in the final round to see off reigning Olympic champion Roberto Cammarelle via countback after an 18-18 draw.
Even then the drama was not quite over, as the furious Italians launched an appeal against the verdict, leading to an anxious 20-minute wait before a loudspeaker announcement led to thunderous cheers among the partisan home crowd.
The previous night, Luke Campbell had realised a dream he had harboured since he was 12 years old as he saw off his old friend and rival John Joe Nevin with a composed 14-11 victory to take gold in the bantamweight division.
An emotional Campbell said afterwards: "This is the moment I have been waiting for and training for for so long. I am part of a brilliant team and I am so proud of what every one of the squad has achieved at these Games."
Arguably the gold with the greatest glow was won by Leeds flyweight Nicola Adams, as women's boxing made a triumphant entry into the Olympic programme with a series of sensational sessions topped by Thursday's final programme.
In a superb atmosphere, Adams eased past China's Cancan Ren - who had beaten her in each of the last two world finals - to claim a victory which resonated through the nation and turned Adams - who fought for long to little acclaim - into front page news.
Natasha Jonas had the bad luck to draw Ireland's invincible Katie Taylor in the women's middleweight quarter-final and although she went home without a medal, the Liverpool girl could return with her head held high after engaging in one of the best fights of the tournament.
There were disappointments, with world champion Savannah Marshall crashing out in her opening bout, and world number one Thomas Stalker falling to a controversial defeat against Mongolia's Munkh-Erdene Uranchimeg at the quarter-final stage.
But the success of the British boxing team may have been best represented by Lowestoft middleweight Anthony Ogogo, who overcame personal tribulations to battle his way all the way to a richly deserved bronze medal.
Ogogo said: "I'm disappointed I didn't get gold but in the circumstances I have to be proud that I'm taking a medal home to show my mum. It's been a long, long road to get here and getting that medal was still one of the proudest moments of my life."