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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 August, 2004, 16:27 GMT 17:27 UK
GB diver eyes boxing switch
By Andrew Fraser
BBC Sport in Athens

British diver Tony Ally

Britain's Tony Ally called time on his Olympic diving career after exiting the 3m springboard competition at the semi-final stage.

But Ally has told the BBC Sport website that he is already gearing up for his next sporting challenge - as a professional boxer.

The 31-year-old has been preparing at Brendan Ingle's gym in Sheffield, where "Prince" Naseem Hamed learned his trade.

"I've trained with four world champions already, sparring with guys like Junior Witter, Johnny Nelson and Esham Pickering," said Ally.

"It's a great experience for me and at the moment I'm doing a great job.

"When I'm in the gym I train hard, but obviously for the past couple of months I've been concentrating on the diving."

A light heavyweight, Ally could go up against the likes of Clinton Woods and Roy Jones Jr if he turned pro.

"I'm still taking it all on board," said Ally, who turned 31 last week.

The boxing could be a way forward for me
Tony Ally
"I'll go home now, have a little break with the wife and kids, and take it from there."

Few Olympians have had a tougher life than Ally.

He was diagnosed with a hearing disorder as a child, and lost his brother at the age of nine.

"I always felt that he was sitting on my shoulder telling me I should be out there making things happen," Ally said before the Games.

Ally, who grew up in Catford in south-east London, admits he might have ended up in prison if he had not decided to focus on diving.

He won his first senior national title at 12, despite having to rely on lip-reading his coach. He now has a digitally advanced hearing aid.

Ally hit the headlines in Atlanta in 1996 when he sold his Olympic kit to raise money.

TONY ALLY FACTFILE
Ally holds his form off the diving board
Born: Luton, 17 Aug 1973
Events: men's 3m springboard, 3m synchro springboard
Major results:
Atlanta 1996: individual 18th
Seville 1999: European gold
Sydney 2000: individual 12th, synchro 7th
Athens 2004: individual 15th, synchro 5th
But his career was almost ended two years later when he had a motorbike accident while on holiday in Italy which destroyed the muscles in his right arm.

"It was so bad that they took my forearm muscle out and regrew it. I thought my career was over," he said.

Ally bounced back in Seville in 1999 to become the first British diver to win a European championship gold medal.

And, after finishing seventh in the 3m synchronised event and 12th in the individual in Sydney, he arrived in Athens with high hopes of a medal.

But he and synchro partner Mark Shipman were forced to settle for fifth, even though they set a personal best.

And Ally admitted he was disappointed after failing to qualify for the final of the individual 3m event.

"I'm still going to be diving. We've got the world championships next year, and the Commonwealth Games after that," he said.

"The boxing might be a way forward for me as well as the diving, but the boxing has helped me with my diving to get here.

"It's all about combining the two together and seeing how I get on."

Ally pinpoints the "Rumble in the Jungle" between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Zaire as the sporting moment he would most like to have witnessed.

And if he gets his way, "Muhammad" Ally could soon be coming to a boxing hall near you.





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