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Page last updated at 06:47 GMT, Thursday, 11 November 2010

Boxer Tom Stalker escapes life of crime

2010 GB Amateur Boxing Championships
Venue: Echo Arena, Liverpool Dates: 12-13 November 2010 Coverage: Live coverage of Saturday's finals on the BBC's Red Button and the BBC Sport website. Highlights on BBC Two on Sunday. Find full coverage details here.

Thomas Stalker

Home nations triumph in first boxing finals

By Nabil Hassan

Life could have been very different for Liverpool's Tom Stalker.

The 26-year-old's childhood was spent with friends whose hobbies included robbing cars and petty theft. Those friends are now in prison and Stalker admits he, too, would be inside had he not found boxing.

Instead, Stalker is enhancing his reputation as one of the most feared amateur lightweight fighters on the planet.

Tom Stalker
Stalker was named amateur boxer of the year in October

And he has an opportunity to add to that reputation in front of his own fans at this weekend's GB Amateur Boxing Championships at Liverpool's Echo Arena.

It has been a remarkable year for Stalker, who has already won Commonwealth Games gold and European Championships silver, achievements that have earned him the prestigious Amateur Boxer of the Year award.

And victory on Saturday will cement his place in the GB team as he continues his quest for Olympic selection for the 2012 Games in London. As Stalker tells BBC Sport: "It's been an unbelievable year".

Stalker started boxing at the age of 18. Sick of hanging around the streets "doing stupid things", "getting into a lot of trouble" and with a baby on the way, he decided life had to change.

So, with his two younger brothers in tow, he went along to the Saint Aloysius gym in Huyton, Merseyside. The rest, as they say, is history.

"I knew I was a nice lad, it's just I was with the wrong people. I needed to break away from those people," explains Stalker.

From the minute he started boxing, he got the bug. The gym felt like home to him and became a sanctuary.

"It kept me off the streets, everyone in there felt like family," he adds. "Boxing means everything to me. The sport has kept me on the straight and narrow and has kept me out of prison.

It doesn't matter if you are a nice person, if you are hanging around the wrong people you can become someone you are not

Tom Stalker

"It doesn't matter if you are a nice person, if you are hanging around the wrong people you can become someone you are not."

But while Stalker loved the sport, he was far from a natural boxer. He admits he often felt like quitting but he stuck at it. The hours of dedication are now paying dividends.

"My first year I was hopeless but my trainer, Kenny Willis, spent loads of time with me and I soon got better," says Stalker, a member of the Great Britain's elite boxing squad based in Sheffield.

Stalker boxed his way through the ranks, even fighting former amateur star Frankie Gavin in an ABA final. He soon earned national honours and to date has fought just shy of 50 international contests.

His last fight in October saw him win Commonwealth Games gold in Delhi, beating Scotland's Josh Taylor emphatically in the final.

The pair could meet again on Saturday, with fellow Englishman Martin Ward the other fighter in their category.

Thomas Stalker
Thomas Stalker won gold at the Commonwealth Games

It is just one of many intriguing potential match-ups at the inaugural GB Championships, which will be screened live on the BBC's Red Button on Saturday.

The event has been implemented with the aimed of identifying the best male and female amateur boxers in the country.

The competition will pit the best from England, Scotland and Wales against current members of the elite squad and create an opportunity for those not in the squad to force their way into contention for the London Olympics.

In addition, it will also be the first time women's boxing has been screened live on the BBC.

Stalker, who will have fought nearly 25 times by the end of 2010, is relishing the chance of fighting in his own backyard before heading out to Russia for the World Cup in December.

But while 2010 has been a golden year, he hopes it is just the pre-cursor to what would be the biggest achievement so far - Olympic selection.

"To box at 2012 would mean the world to me," says Stalker. "Everyone is asking me now if I'm turning pro because of the Commonwealths but to box in front of my own fans at the 2012 Olympics would be an indescribable feeling.

"But, listen, I am an honest person and I know there is still a long way to go to get into the 2012 team. I'm not going to kid myself.

"If I get beat at these GB Championships, it will give the selectors something to think about. I just need to keep on working hard and keep on beating whoever is put in front of me."

see also
GB team set for home nations test
10 Nov 10 |  Boxing
Line-up named for GB boxing event
27 Oct 10 |  Boxing
BBC to broadcast GB Championships
21 Oct 10 |  Boxing
Northern Irish trio box to glory
13 Oct 10 |  Commonwealth Games
'Tired' Ogogo settles for silver
13 Oct 10 |  Commonwealth Games
New event to find 2012 GB talent
05 Aug 10 |  Boxing
Ireland's Taylor wins world title
18 Sep 10 |  Boxing
English duo crash out at Worlds
10 Sep 10 |  Boxing
GB's women win three EU silvers
08 Aug 10 |  Boxing
GB boxers praise coach McCracken
17 Jun 10 |  Boxing
GB secure three silvers at Euros
12 Jun 10 |  Boxing
Amateur boxing explained
01 Mar 06 |  Boxing

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