Heavyweight Olympic hopeful wants to end medal drought

Australian heavyweight boxing titleholder Jason Whateley says he will put everything he has into the effort as he chases an Olympic gold medal in his Games debut this August.

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The fighter hailing from country Victoria says he is determined to break the nearly 30-year drought in boxing medals for Australia as he takes on the world’s best in Rio de Janeiro.

As a kid, Jason Whateley would often find himself in schoolyard brawls.

So when his local football club in regional Victoria asked him to participate in an amateur boxing match, the connection was instant.

“I trained for six weeks and then got in the ring, just to draw a bit of a crowd and that sort of thing. So I did that, won by TKO (technical knockout) in the third round, and then just loved it. I don’t even get in trouble for it. How good’s this!”

The heavyweight fighter now holds back-to-back national titles from 2015 and 2016.

He says he is yet to suffer any serious injuries in competition.

“I’ve had my nose broken a couple of times. I’ve chipped a bone in my elbow from overextension. Not too many, to be honest, you know? It was probably more dangerous playing footy than it is boxing.”

Now, Whateley is set to make his Olympic debut, but winning fights is only half the battle.

While competing in Rio, Whateley still must pay his rent in Melbourne, and, without sponsorship, he has struggled to pay for the international travel involved in making the team.

As a result, he has started a crowdfunding campaign to help fund his Rio journey.

“I have to fund my own trips and that sort of thing. This one coming up, I don’t have to fund as much, but I’m still going to miss out on a lot of work, I still have to pay rent, you still have to live, and you’re not getting any financial support, so it’s tough.”

Whateley is not one to back down from a fight, though.

With his days spent as a personal trainer and nights hitting the bag, Whateley’s girlfriend, Steph Cassidy, says it is hard watching him sacrifice so much for Olympic glory.

“The sacrifices that he makes, I couldn’t list them all. He misses out on birthdays. He misses out on holidays. He doesn’t drink. He doesn’t party. He doesn’t do anything.”

His coach is hoping that dedication will pay off in August.

Gerry Murphy says, while many arrive at the boxing gym with the skills to fight, few have the drive to reach the elite levels.

“I’ve had many, many guys come in here who had the goods, everything they needed, except the willpower. They’ve always got an excuse and whatever. He’s never got an excuse.”

Whateley says, while it was a dream come true to make the Olympic team, the job is far from over.

With under four months until the Games begin, the 25-year-old is shifting training into high gear, aiming for a medal.

“Aw, definitely going for a gold medal, yeah. Going for a medal … I want to be the first (Australian) medallist since 1988. I think no heavyweight … I could be wrong, but I don’t think any heavyweight’s ever medalled.”

Whateley will need to win five bouts, with a loss meaning instant elimination.

But whether it is an arena in Brazil or a shed in Bairnsdale, Victoria, Whateley says he is prepared to go down swinging

Never surrender, never give up. So always keep going. Keep going forward.”