Islington Boxing Club new boy aims for championships and Great Britain honours

Islington BC's Mason Smith

Islington BC's Mason Smith - Credit: Archant

Even with over a century of fights to his name, Islington BC’s Mason Smith has several ambitions yet to fulfil in amateur boxing.

Light-welterweight Smith, who is still a teenager – although he turns 20 later this month – accumulated 101 contests in the colours of Finchley ABC before his recent switch to Islington.

However, his check-list still includes earning selection for the Great Britain squad, boxing at the Olympic Games and winning a national championship for the first time.

That last target might not seem terribly important in comparison to the first two, but it certainly matters to Smith, who lost the England Boxing Elite Championship 64kg final to Danny Wright earlier this year.

“I feel nerves got the better of me that day,” Smith told the Gazette. “It was a big crowd and being in the ring with all the lights down on me was really nerve-racking.

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“I got to a junior final, but I’ve never actually won a championship. The only thing I’ve won tournament-wise was the Haringey Box Cup earlier this year.

“To get to the senior final at only 19 was a big improvement on my first year, when I reached the London semi-finals, so I’m a bit closer and this time hopefully I can win the championship.

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“Islington feels like home already and hopefully being here will push me on to win championships and go on to box for Great Britain – something that would change my life.

“I won’t turn pro any time soon – my dream is to go to the Olympics in Tokyo and the Commonwealth Games two years before that. Hopefully I can get on the GB team and achieve those goals.

“Anthony Joshua’s someone I know from Finchley and I look up to him. He’s a good mate and I want to do the things he’s done, winning a gold medal at the Olympics and becoming a world champion – so I’d like to follow in his footsteps.”

Smith, who works as a BT engineer, is currently waiting on the outcome of his GB assessment – and, should it prove successful, he would qualify to train full-time with the national squad.

That avenue would have been closed had Smith remained at Finchley, one of the clubs who recently voted to break away from England Boxing and join its newly-formed rival Amateur Boxing Alliance.

The 19-year-old was one of six Finchley boxers – the others being Yasar Al-Ghena, Mo Gharib, Chris Oweagbusi, Jerome Campbell and Jiyan Oguz – who opted to relocate to the Hazellville Road gym in the wake of that decision.

“I had to move on,” explained Smith. “If I’d stayed I wouldn’t have been able to box for England or Great Britain or enter the championships that are recognised by England Boxing.

“Finchley understood the reasons I had to leave and there were other options, but at Islington there are a lot more people I can spar with and I get on with everyone really well, so it was perfect.

“Training-wise it’s better here – we do different things like sprints over in the park before training, then do a circuit and then sparring.

“It gets mixed up every session – sometimes we do circuits at the end, sometimes at the beginning, so it’s a lot tougher and it’s going to push me.”

Smith will make his first appearance in an Islington vest at York Hall on Sunday, when he defends his England Boxing Southern Area title against former Finchley team-mate Bobby Woods.

Irrespective of the outcome this weekend, he has no plans to abandon the 64kg weight category any time soon, having made an ill-fated attempt to move down to 60kg last year.

“At the beginning of last season I tried making 60kg and I just looked and felt physically drained – I wasn’t myself, I wasn’t throwing punches in the ring and I didn’t have the energy to do anything,” said Smith.

“After Christmas I thought about it and did weights, ate properly and blew up to 64kg. I felt comfortable and I’ve only lost two fights at that weight, so I’m staying there – until I grow again, that is!”

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