DOUBLE Olympic boxer Thomas Essomba is hoping to bring honours back to his adopted city of Sunderland this weekend when he competes in the national Amateur Boxing Association of England finals.
The 26-year-old, who was captain of the Cameroon boxing squad at the London Olympics and also fought in Beijing in 2008, claimed asylum in England last year and has targeted the ABAs as the start of his new boxing life.
Taken under the wing of Sunderland boxing promoter and trainer Phil Jeffries, Essomba trains out of Jeffries’ Olympian gym.
And today he represents Sunderland in the national quarter-finals held in Liverpool’s Echo Arena hoping to progress to the semi-finals tomorrow and Sunday’s final in the same venue.
Essomba, who has been granted indefinite stay in the country for the next five years by the Home Office, has not ruled out representing Great Britain in the next Olympics.
But first there is this weekend’s finals, which is key to his plans.
“My new life will start with the ABAs,” said the boxer, who has got down to the super-featherweight weight in which he competed at the Olympics.
“This is a competition I want to win.”
Essomba is one of the least well-known of a number of Wearside boxers who are hoping to claim the top amateur honours over the course of this weekend.
Sunderland prospect Josh Kelly, who will be staying in the same hotel as Essomba, and who trains at Houghton & District ABC, will be looking to retain the national ABA crown he won with some style last year.
And Sunderland ABC heavyweight Warren Baister is looking to put two injury-plagued years behind him and add a second national title to his CV.
The 28-year-old admitted: “The last couple of years have been a bit of a nightmare.
“I have had two serious injuries – one to my foot and one to my right hand – which have kept me out of action for long periods.
“I have worked really hard on my rehabilitation though and am now running faster than I did before the injuries and am training well.
“My aim for this year is to win the national finals and then get selected for the Commonwealth Games.
“The pleasing thing for me with the finals is that when I have boxed it has usually been overseas in an international tournament, so it is great that family and friends will be able to see me compete this weekend.
“I have a lot of support coming down from Sunderland, so that will give me an extra bit of motivation to really do well and put in a good performance.”
Meanwhile, Birtley ABC youngster Pat McCormack, who is competing in these national finals for the first time, is hoping to continue his meteoric rise and build on the impressive pedigree which saw him become a 2011 World and European Junior champion.
Other fighters competing in the finals are light-heavyweight Dean Lang (Birtley ABC), heavyweight Michael Watson (East Durham) and super-heavyweight Blaise Mendouo – one of Essomba’s fellow Cameroonian asylum seekers – who will be representing Wearmouth.