Rising Sunderland boxing star Rhys Deehan is back in full training after a Christmas and New Year break with his sights set firmly on more silverware in his pursuit of Olympic and professional glory.
The 15-year-old has impressed coaches in the ultra-competitive Birtley Boxing gym in Gateshead, who have earmarked the Pennywell lad as a future star in a club recognised as home to some of the country’s top UK amateur talent.
Rhys is the latest boxing talent to shine at Academy 360 in Sunderland, following the path of former student Isaac MacLeod who has enjoyed a successful start to his professional career.
Principal Rachel Donohue and teachers support student Rhys in his boxing ambitions, using the academy’s gym to build his cardio-vascular fitness and encouraging his amateur career.
His focus is now on the junior England ABA championships where he hopes to add to his European Schoolboys Boxing Championships silver medal and the gold he fought his way to at the Sven Lange tournament in Germany late last year.
Rhys has only lost once in an impressive amateur career for England – his controversial points defeat against a Russian opponent in the European Schoolboys final in Zagreb the sole blemish on a career showing great promise.
“I fought six times to get that medal beating fighters from across Europe and the final could have gone either way,” said Rhys, of Pennywell.
“Some people thought I’d won it, I thought I’d won it.” Rhys demonstrated silky skills fighting off the back foot to strike gold at the Sven Lange tournament, comfortably out-pointing an Indian opponent a year older than him who was the reigning Asian Games champion.
“He had 80-odd fights and won 74 as an amateur,” said Rhys. “He was a year older than me. He had all the advantages but I just took those away from him.
“I fought my own fight. I sat on the back foot and waited for him to come in and picked him off.
“He started getting frustrated and when he did that he rushed in more which made it an easier fight for me. I won by taking him out of his comfort zone.
“It’s an exciting way to fight, people love a good back foot boxer. I’m not bad at power, I have a bit of power behind me but the more power you put behind your punches the more tired you get. I like to hit fast, speed beats power and it frustrates opponents when you hit them quickly and move.”
A place in Team GB’s squad is his ultimate aim, possibly for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games and from there a professional career.
Graeme Rutherford, Rhys’ coach at Birtley Boxing, said: “Rhys is a very talented fighter. He has a very good chance of making the Great Britain team and the Olympics from there.
“In terms of results and performances, he’s one of the best kids we’ve had in our gym for his age. He’s got a boxing brain, a good technician. If he keeps focused and dedicated he’s got a big future ahead of him.”
Rhys is learning from the best at Birtley Boxing. Out of the 53 boxers in the gym, 14 are national champions, 17 represent England and six box on the Great Britain programme.
Ms Donohue said: “We are proud of Rhys and his boxing achievements. We place a lot of importance on sporting success at Academy 360 and Rhys through his dedication and attitude has quickly become a role model for other pupils to look up to.”