They don’t produce many also-rans in Rob McCracken’s stable. They don’t produce many favourites with such short odds as Lauren Price, either.
GB Boxing has long been one of the more bankable programmes in the British Olympic set-up, but for all of their familiarity with success, there is considerable excitement among staff about the former cab driver who won four kickboxing world titles, 52 caps for the senior Welsh national football team, trialled for her country in age-grade rugby and walked away from a potential career in taekwondo.
She was strong to excellent in all of those pursuits; in boxing she is something else entirely.
They don’t produce many favourites with such short odds as GB boxer Lauren Price
There is considerable excitement among Rob McCracken and his staff about the former cab driver
‘It’s gone OK,’ is her take, but a fuller accounting would note she is the reigning world champion, European Games champion and Commonwealth Games champion. She has dominated the amateur middleweight scene since 2018, and so she will be the woman to beat when these belated Olympics finally begin in Tokyo.
‘It’s been a frustrating wait,’ she says. ‘I was about to have my qualifier in London when it got postponed in 2020. I was going along nicely, winning the European games, winning the worlds, and then it was all called off.
‘It was more than a year out of the ring and you ask yourself a million questions. Devastating really. It really gets in your head, but you have to think about how you come out strong, to make a positive out of a negative.’
In many respects, that is the theme of a life that started in desperately tough circumstances 27 years ago. The details are both sad and enormously uplifting, considering she was given up by her parents when she was only three days old, but then flourished amid the deepest of bonds with her paternal grandparents, who raised her in Caerphilly.
Price is the reigning world champion, European Games champion and Commonwealth Games champion
‘If it wasn’t for my nan and granddad bringing me up I would probably have ended up in care,’ she says of Linda and Derek, the latter of whom sadly passed away last year. ‘They saved my life really and I couldn’t thank them enough. I really can’t. I have had no contact whatsoever with my parents since I was very little (aged six), and my grandparents did everything.’
That includes steering a hyperactive child into a kickboxing gym for the first time. ‘My nan and grandad wanted to just get me involved in something to use a bit of energy,’ says Price.
‘I was hooked from the start. I loved the hard training, the grit, the combat side of it.’
The sporting story from that point on makes for an astonishing list. Price had won her first of four world kickboxing titles by the age of 12, beating women twice her age, and at 16 she was picked ahead of 2,000 contenders as part of a taekwondo talent-identification scheme. She lived in Manchester with Jade Jones, who went on to win two Olympic gold medals, but decided ‘it wasn’t for me, I wanted to go home’.
She has dominated the amateur middleweight scene since 2018, and so she will be the woman to beat
Football became Price’s prime focus after the taekwondo experiment. She was signed by Cardiff City alongside captaining Wales Under 19s and she won the first of 52 senior caps as a 16-year-old in 2012, before boxing as a part-time fighter at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. She won bronze and decided to give it her full attention.
‘Even in football I always loved the physical side,’ she says. ‘I was just one of those players who loved to get stuck in, slide tackles and that. I have two scars on my head from collisions. Boxing, I loved. It just worked for me.’
After briefly driving a taxi on Saturday nights — typically a 5pm to 3am shift and ‘never a fare dodger’ — Price was called up to join McCracken’s GB Boxing programme in 2016. European and world bronze medals marked out her potential in 2018 and she broke through with golds in the Commonwealths, European Games and 2019 World Championships.
In the footsteps of Nicola Adams, she is majorly tipped to complete the set at the Olympics. As a counter-punching southpaw, her strengths are her footwork, quick hands and agility, with her coaches almost baffled by her ability to adapt to instructions.
She lived in Manchester with Jade Jones, who went on to win two Olympic gold medals
In the footsteps of Nicola Adams, she is majorly tipped to complete the set at the Olympics
‘It’ll be a dream to fight in Tokyo — I was eight when I first started dreaming of going to the Games,’ she says. ‘It was way before boxing was in the Olympics. I remember watching Kelly Holmes run, 2004, and the crowd was going mad.
‘I’ve watched Nicola Adams and Katie Taylor and they have built women’s boxing. Being an Olympian means the world to me.’
It comes with a degree of sadness owing to Derek’s passing at the age of 80, but within that is further motivation. ‘Coming back home without him there has been strange. But I know he is always there looking down on me and I know he’ll be proud, just like my nan is proud. I’m an Olympian now and they know what they mean to me.’
Lauren Price is working with Purplebricks to encourage the nation to get behind TeamGB. Visit https://www.purplebricks.co.uk/team-gb
Price has described it as a ‘dream’ to be fighting in the Tokyo Olympic Games this summer