Boxing: Bateson's got Rio 2016 firmly in his sights
Jack Bateson has two overriding goals '“ reaching the Rio Olympics and becoming a top-ranking pro. Lee Sobot reports.
AT just 21 years of age, a look through Jack Bateson’s roll of honour makes for impressive reading.
The Leeds boxer is a three-time National Golden Gloves champion, a former junior and senior ABAs winner plus a Commonwealth Youth Games gold medallist and European Championships bronze winner.
Not bad only five years out of high school.
Yet those achievements are envisaged to be only just the beginning for a boxer who would swap everything he’s ever won for a place at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Even then, the journey has only just begun for a passionate Leeds fighter who dreams of being the city’s next Josh Warrington in the professional game.
Bateson is in contention to represent Team GB in the flyweight division at this summer’s Olympic Games with the former Allerton High School pupil training full time with the GB boxing squad at the English Institute For Sport in Sheffield.
The Moortown-raised boxer has forthcoming assignments through competitions in Hungary and Bulgaria – after which April’s Olympic Qualifiers in Turkey are the acid test.
Bateson admits he would be “devastated” were he not to board the plane to Rio – so much so that every trophy and medal in his cabinet at his Pool-in-Wherfedale home would be sacrificed for a spot in South America.
The flyweight then hopes to turn up the heat on the professional scene with Bateson, an ardent Leeds United fan, hoping to create a similar stir to Josh Warrington, who has united the city’s boxing and football supporters into a frenzy.
“I’ve had a lot of good experience so far, Schoolboys, Juniors and Youth,” Bateson told the YEP.
“I’ve got to take all that now and really turn myself into the senior elite boxer that I am now.
“It’s just the beginning. I’ve been to a few majors but I was disappointed not to go to the Europeans and the Worlds last year through injury.
“I was really looking to make my mark there.
“But, with the chances I’ve been given, I’ve taken my opportunities and I’ve done well.
“I just need to be given that opportunity now and I know that I’ll bring the goods back.
“I’d give everything I’ve achieved to this day away just to get me on that flight to Rio.
“Because I know the hardest thing is going to be getting my spot in Rio and once I am there I know anyone has got a good chance of getting a gold medal.
“There’s no ‘bums’ that go to the Olympics, everyone there has got a real shot, they are a real contender.
“And if I was to make Rio, I think I would turn over and go pro.
“You see the backing that Leeds gets behind the pro fighters, the likes of Josh Warrington selling out Leeds Arena, and that’s something that I want to do one day.
“I’m a big Leeds fan and I’d love to get Leeds behind me and really take us to the top.
“It gives me butterflies. When I go in there and Josh comes out and I see all the Leeds fans singing along and Marching On Together comes on, honestly, it gives me butterflies.
“I get goosebumps thinking that one day that could be me and I’m pretty positive in my journey that one day it will be.”
That journey all began at Burmantofts Amateur Boxing Club for Bateson – a gym the Leeds star still trains at on weekends when he returns home from the EIS in Sheffield.
But the young boxer also has a ring at his home with mum Karen and dad Mark in Pool-in-Wharfedale and there’s no danger of the Steel City ever replacing Leeds as Bateson’s first love. “I’m Leeds. Leeds through and through,” he smiles. “I’m Leeds ’til I tie.
“I’m full time in Sheffield so I’m here Monday to Thursday and then on a weekend I come home and I’m still training at home.
“I’ve got my dad and my uncle, Mark and Martin, who really look after me at home and they train me just as hard as what I would be in Sheffield. I’ve got a great team around me, I’ve also got the Sky Scholarship scheme behind me and anything that I need or anything that can benefit me and spur me on to go to Rio, Sky will support me with, so I’m really lucky at the minute and I’ve got to be very thankful for my team around me
“We are in Pool-in-Wharfedale now which is just on the outskirts of Leeds but I grew up in Moortown and I went to Allerton High School.
“There’s my mum and my dad, Karen and Mark, and I’ve got a brother called Tom who has just moved out.
“My brother is 24, so three years older then me, and he’s just flown the nest.
“He’s moved out and got his own place in Cookridge so he’s not too far but he’s moving on and he’s really supportive of me as well.
“I’ve got a good family, they support me with everything and they will always be behind me, so I’d love to make them proud.”
It’s a family that is already proud of Bateson’s efforts, yet there’s a strong suspicion the best is yet to come. The boxer says the fact that he picked up a nasal injury and missed six months of last year is often forgotten. Bateson explains: “I picked it up in sparring. It was a septal hematoma – my left septum – and it put me out for six months, so that’s half the year really and a year before Rio that was a real hit to me.
“I missed out on the European Games, the European Championships and because I missed out on those I missed the World Championships.
“I feel like I am back on top form now and whoever I go up against, whether they are no 1 in the world or whatever, I feel I have got every chance of beating them. I just need to prove it now.
“I’ve got two tournaments in February that I’m going to, in Budapest and in Bulgaria, and then I’ve got a Mexico World Series of Boxing competition in Mexico.
“It’s going to be tough but I am really looking forward to it.
“I’m up for the challenge and hopefully I’ll be on that flight.”
It’s a dedicated and hectic life that leaves little time for anything or anyone else – though young, free and single Bateson insists he would always make time for a girlfriend.
“If anyone is interested, get in touch,” laughed Bateson.
“It’s a lonely sport is boxing and whenever any of my friends ask it’s always ‘no I have to go to training and that.’ But I will have my time.”