SUNDERLAND’S only Olympic medal winner headed back to home turf to throw his weight behind our London 2012 heroes.
Tony Jeffries, who won a boxing bronze in Beijing, was invited to the games by Team GB to see how the athletes are shaping up.
And he need not have worried, as the medals came rolling in across a weekend of success, which included golds for Andy Murray, Jessica Ennis, Mo Farrah and Greg Rutherford,
“There’s a brilliant atmosphere down there,” said the 27-year-old, who now lives in Los Angeles.
He added: “Initially I was asked by Team GB if I would attend the Olympics as a guest.
“While I was there I was interviewed by the BBC about my experiences in Beijing and what the lads this year will be going through.
The British boxing team is really strong.
“Ninety per cent of them were going through the development programme when we were in Beijing, so I know a lot of them.
“I’d love to be up there, but I’ve been there and got the tracksuit – it’s their turn to shine.
“It’s a chance to have the Olympics change their lives, like it did mine.”
Since his moment in the spotlight four years ago, Tony has moved to America with his wife Sarah, where he has been granted a Green Card, which allows him permanent resident status.
Since his last fight last year, his boxing career has hung in the balance after an operation to repair his damaged hands did not have the desired effect.
Tony has not been able to fight or even punch since September, but nonsurgical treatment offered to him for free has given him a glimmer of hope.
Last month, the fighter had red blood cells extracted from bone marrow in his hip and injected into his ravaged hands, after a private clinic in Beverly Hills offered to perform the procedure.
The former Farringdon School pupil said: “I still can’t punch, but for the first time in eight months I’ve been able to make a fist so the treatment is working.
“In a fortnight I’ll find out whether I can fight again. I want to box more than anything.”
While he waits for his hands to heal, Tony has been pursuing other avenues in America.
He has teamed up with Hollywood actor Mickey Rourke, and the pair are in the process of looking for a suitable venue for their new gym venture.
“It’s mad,” said Tony. “I met Mickey a while back at a boxing show in London and he kept in touch and followed my career.
“I began training his girlfriend (model Anastasia Makarenko) and ended up meeting up with him again.
“From there we have ended up going into business together.
“Sunderland will always be my home, but America has given me these amazing opportunities.”
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