Lauren Price has come a long way. From watching Kelly Holmes on TV as a child, to funding her sports career as a late-night taxi driver, she pursued her Olympic dream all the way to winning the middleweight gold medal at the Tokyo Games.
“When I look back now, I have to pinch myself at times, because I still think it’s mad that I won the Olympics, having that dream from the age of eight,” Price told Sky Sports.
“Obviously I wanted to win gold but I never thought I’d have that gold medal round my neck.”
Raised by her grandparents, they always encouraged her to play sports. “I was quite lucky in a way, I’ve lived with them since I was three days old, they’ve always backed me, supported me,” Price said.
“If it wasn’t for them then I wouldn’t have achieved nothing really. I was quite lucky for them to take me on at three days old, otherwise I would have ended up in care and God knows where I would have been. So I’m very thankful to them.
“My nan is obviously a big part of my life. My grandad sadly passed away the year before the Olympics with dementia.”
She dedicated that Olympic win to the memory of her grandfather and it was a special moment to return home from Japan to her grandmother. “That was nice for me winning that gold medal and coming back to her,” Price said.
“Seeing the smile on her face and kind of giving that back to her because they spent thousands on me over the years.”
She began with football, and ultimately represented Wales. But Price also was a high standard kickboxer and was then talent-scouted by GB Taekwondo before she switched to boxing.
“For me the big turning point was as a child being inspired by Kelly Holmes, that story will always stick by me. Watching her in the Olympics winning gold, the closing ceremony, everything. I just remember watching her on telly as a child and I was like, ‘Oh My God I want to go to the Olympics.’ Back then I never knew how I was going to get there,” Price recalled.
“It was like I don’t know how I’m going to get it but I’m going to get it. For so long I had that dream over the years, I just worked hard. I honestly believe if you work hard and put the effort in then you’ll get to where you want to be.
“My nan always used to say to me reach for the moon and if you fall short you’ll land on the stars. It’s something that’s always stuck by me and I suppose I’ve always been so driven and had that support off them.”
When Price was breaking onto the Welsh boxing team, funding was extremely limited. So she worked as a driver for her grandparents’ taxi company when she was still a teenager.
“I was training Monday to Thursday like they do with GB and then I was taxi driving Friday and Saturday nights and I was absolutely knackered. I’d start work at five and I’d finish at like four in the morning. I’d work through the nights picking up all the drunks,” she remembered.
That was a different kind of education. “The situations I’ve been in, it’s quite funny now when I look back,” Price smiled.
Ultimately she excelled as an amateur boxer. Price won every major gold medal going, unfazed by World championships in Russia, the delays and difficulties of competing during the pandemic and by competing against bigger opponents outside of her natural weight class.
“Having that fire in your belly, ice in your mind,” she reflected. “I always think back to that for going in the ring.
“I think it’s important you don’t lose your head.
“When I went to the Olympics, I was expected to medal and I was expected to go on and win gold because I was seeded number one, I was European champion, I was World champion.
“Those pressures I’ve always had at the back of my mind and they’re not bad pressures because I’ve always thrived off them. I think that’s what’s done me good.”
She is now two fights into her professional boxing career and takes on former European title challenger Naomi Mannes in Paris on Saturday, live on Sky Sports.
“She knows what she’s doing, she’s quite clever,” Price said of Mannes. “The better my opponent, the better it is for me.
“I just need to concentrate on what I’m good at, how I box. If I stick to the plan and how I box, then I’ll create openings and work my way round that way.
“When those openings come I will be able to let my hands go. For me I’ll always keep my speed. The power comes from your speed as well. I know myself when I want to dig, I can dig. When I want to box, I can box. If I add them two together, I should be alright.”
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She has every intention of replicating her amateur success as a professional.
“As fights go on, you’ll see these little adjustments and improvements and I think when I get to that stage of boxing for a world title, I’ll be a completely different fighter as well,” she said.
“For myself I’ve boxed all round the world against all different styles. Obviously I believe in myself and my capabilities to go on and perform well.
“The whole journey and everything that I’ve gone through have got me to where I am today,” Price reflected.
“Looking back I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Lauren Price fights Naomi Mannes on March 11 live on Sky Sports. Watch Sky Sports via NOW