Ryan Charles has a Commonwealth Games medal firmly in his sights – despite dropping down two weight divisions in just two months.
A member of Islington Boxing Club, Charles has spent most of his career as a heavyweight or cruiserweight, but has been shedding the pounds since early May in his bid to box as a light-heavyweight at Glasgow 2014.
The 27-year-old is close to making the 81kg limit for the Games, which get underway this week – and he is determined to make sure the hard work pays off by winning a medal for Saint Lucia.
Charles represented the Caribbean country last year at two international tournaments, winning gold medals on both occasions, but he admits those feats would be dwarfed by success in Scotland.
“So far, the highlight for me was winning gold and the best boxer of the tournament last year [at the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States Champion ships],” Charles told the Gazette.
“But a medal at the Commonwealth Games would definitely top it by about a thousand times! This is huge for me – it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’m going to embrace it.
“I feel privileged and humbled to box at the Games, especially given that it’s taking place in the UK. I reckon we’ve got a decent team and we can do well.
“Personally I’m not settling for anything less than a medal – I want to be on that podium. A lot depends on the draw and it’s going to be a step up, but I’m ready for it.”
Saint Lucia has only ever won two bronze medals at the Commonwealth Games, both in athletics, through Dominic Johnson (men’s Pole Vault, Manchester 2002) and Levern Spencer (women’s High Jump, Delhi 2010).
Charles, who returned to the Hazellville Road club at the beginning of last year after a spell with Paddington-based All Stars ABC, won English and British Universities titles before securing a cruiserweight gold medal at the prestigious Haringey Box Cup.
At international level, he followed up last year’s gold medal success with another in the Saint Lucia vest at the Creole Games in Guadeloupe – both as a heavyweight. He also contested the World Boxing Championships in Russia last year in that division.
But Charles is confident that his decision to switch to light-heavyweight will bear fruit over the coming weeks, adding: “It is a big jump but I’m pretty much there and I’ve been training super hard.
“This will be a new experience for me – the lowest I’ve boxed before was 86kg – but I feel I should have been this weight before and I’ll be one of the tallest at the weight as well.
“I used to feel sluggish and there was excess weight that shouldn’t have been there. The nutrition side of things is much better now, I’ve had loads of good sparring and I’m in great shape.”
Charles will be joined at the Games by his Islington team-mate Valerian Spicer, a former ABA bantamweight champion who is also representing her mother’s country, Dominica.
An Islington contingent will be heading to Glasgow to cheer the pair on and Charles was quick to praise the club’s coaches for their significant input in helping him to earn an opportunity on the big stage.
“They’ve been so helpful,” he said. “They’re always monitoring my progress, making sure I get good sparring and checking up to make sure I’m doing the running. They can always tell if I’m lying or not!
“Everyone looks after each other at Islington – it’s like a family and I really love the club.”