sport

Stalker agonised over pro switch

Thomas Stalker admits the decision to abandon his Olympic dream was an "agonising" one.

The Team GB captain on Wednesday left the amateur ranks to turn professional.

The Liverpudlian led Robert McCracken's hugely successful squad in London last summer but was unable to earn a medal himself.

At 28 years old Stalker mulled over his future for months before finally deciding to join the paid ranks, joining Anthony Ogogo after the bronze medallist signed with Golden Boy.

The light-welterweight world number one was tipped for big things in London but could not join the likes of Ogogo, gold medallists Anthony Joshua, Luke Campbell and Nicola Adams and silver winner Fred Evans in securing personal glory.

He lost out in controversial circumstances via a hotly disputed quarter-final defeat to Mongolian Munkh-Erdene Uranchimeg, admitting he was "heartbroken" and claiming "those judges wrecked my life".

Now, however, he can look forward to a new lease of life in the paid ranks under burgeoning promoter Eddie Hearn.

Stalker said: "It's taken me a long time to make the agonising choice because I was part of a family with the GB team for five years. It's like my home.

"I'm on my own now but it's my personal ambition to see how far I can go. If I'd stayed amateur for another five years and gone for the next Olympics I could have had the same thing happen as London.

"I want to get my head down now and get to the top.

"In life you never know what's around the corner. Before the Olympics I won a medal at every tournament and I never once thought I wouldn't do it at the Olympics too. When it didn't happen on the biggest stage I was devastated. It made me realise I didn't have the heart to go through another four years of it."

McCracken, performance director at GB Boxing said: "It has been very good working with Tom over the last three years, when he has shown himself to be a fine boxer with the ability to win medals at major tournaments.

"It's disappointing for us that Tom has decided his future lies away from the GB Boxing squad but he departs with our best regards, and we wish him every success in his future career."

Campbell and Joshua have so far resisted the lure of the more glamorous professional game - with super-heavyweight Joshua promising to defend his crown at Rio 2016.

But accomplished amateur Stalker has cut his losses and could make his professional debut on the undercard of fellow Liverpudlian Tony Bellew's March 30 bout at the city's Echo Arena.

"I feel I am going to be exciting to watch as a professional boxer," he said. "I felt it was time for me to turn professional now and see how far I can go. I have done everything I could possibly do as an amateur, bar winning an Olympic medal.

"Even though I didn't medal myself, as a team I have captained the most successful amateur boxing team we have ever had and that was a big thing for me.

"It wasn't just a three-week tournament it had been four years of trying to qualify to win those medals so to see all the lads and women do so well and win medals was amazing and I am very honoured to have captained that team."