Gloves are off for an Olympic place

Bradley Saunders and Scott Cardle
Bradley Saunders and Scott Cardle
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LYTHAM boxer Scott Cardle has never been one to shirk a challenge and hopes the most far-reaching decision of his boxing career will finally pay off when he is awarded a coveted place in the Great Britain team for the London Olympic Games 2012.

His big chance to make an impact on the national scene came when light-welterweight Bradley Saunders was ruled out of the 2009 World Championships due to injury.

Cardle was told he could go in Saunders’ place, but only if he boiled off the extra five kilos and committed himself to a new career at 64kg, placing him on a collision course with Saunders, then the world number one.

Cardle went to the worlds and beat Olympic medallist Alex Vastine en route to the quarter-finals.

Now there is the small matter of hauling in Saunders, still considered number one at the weight, and taking his place in London.

“In my eyes Bradley is still ahead of me,” admitted Cardle, who will begin his crucial 2011 campaign at the Strandja Cup in Bulgaria next week, while Saunders is part of a team competing in the Bokscai Tournament in Hungary.

“Bradley’s on my mind all the time because, however well he does, I’ve got to do twice as well.

“It will all come down to the tournaments leading up to the qualifiers later this year. For now, getting to London is all that matters.”

Cardle had his golden chance to edge ahead of Saunders when they met in the GB Championships in Liverpool in November, but Saunders fought back from a late deficit to edge a 6-4 verdict, which hardly settled the issue.

Cardle, from Kirkham Amateur Boxing Club, may well have had one foot on the train to London by now had he stayed in the 69kg division, which on paper looks weaker, but despite his early doubts, he insists his move down has turned him into the world-class fighter he was struggling to become.

“I fought for three years as a welterweight until Bradley broke his thumb,” he added. “My coaches told me at the time they would send me to the worlds, but only if I moved down in weight. I didn’t like the sound of it, but I did it.

“I was too comfortable at welterweight. I was walking around at the weight and I was coming up against much bigger and stronger lads. I did well in Milan and I knew it was the right move for me.

“Having someone else like Bradley at the weight pushes you on and makes sure you aren’t lazy. It’s the same for most of the boys in the squad at the moment. None of us have guaranteed our places at 2012.”

Performance director Rob McCracken insists the two squads he selected for Bulgaria and Hungary do not constitute A and B teams, although it is clear most of his strongest fighters will travel to the latter.

One exception is at heavyweight where the recalled Danny Price will be given his chance in Hungary, while Commonwealth Games gold medallist Simon Vallily, heads to Bulgaria with Cardle.

“There’s a real buzz in the squad at the moment over London,” added Cardle, who admits to even more motivation to succeed this year as a tribute to his mother, Irene, who is recovering from a recent stroke.

“She’s had a hard time and I want to do it for her,” added Cardle. “I’m feeling good and that’s shown in my recent performances. I’ve achieved the weight and I know this is my major year. Now I’ve got to act on it.”