Ben Whittaker feared his Olympic dream might be going down the toilet because of the pandemic – but he turned down pro offers to chase a medal this summer.
And advice from heavyweight star Anthony Joshua is helping the talented light-heavyweight realise toughing it out now will bring big rewards in the future.
Whittaker, 23, will take part in the final qualifier for Tokyo 2020 this week in Paris.
The Wolverhampton boxer is two wins away from reaching his first Olympics and takes on Romanian Paul Andrei Aradoaie this Friday.
Whittaker is in a confident mood after returning to the ring recently in Serbia where he won gold in a multi-nations competition.
But he was less-than impressed with the hotel he had to stay at in Belgrade and posted funny videos on his Instagram of his reaction to the toilet in the room.
“My main thing is when I get to hotels I have to make sure the bathroom is in good condition but Serbia it was not and I had to make sure my opponent paid for it in the ring,” he said.
“Jokes aside, it's just part of the game.
“It shows how privileged we are at home because we have state of the art things here at home and at EIS [English Institute of Sport].
“You tick it off and hopefully when the pro game comes I don't have to go through those tough times.
“It's part of the process I think.”
Whittaker had some helpful advice from London 2012 Olympic gold medallist Joshua, too.
The unified heavyweight world champion recently returned to GB Boxing's Sheffield base where he also trains as he prepares for a summer defence of his titles.
And he took time to offer Whittaker some guidance.
He said: “I was speaking to AJ the other day and he was saying 'A lot of you have gone through these tough times of going to these little countries, eating food that you wouldn't want to eat so when you go pro you get banquets and feasts'.
“You have to go through it now and hope I get that gold medal which will change it. Then I can start having buffets every day.”
Whittaker is favoured to qualify this week and will be fancied for a medal in Japan later this summer.
He wants to win gold in Paris, though, to improve his seeding for the Olympics while he is also keen to get rounds under his belt.
He has had to wait a year after the upcoming qualifiers were initially halted back in March 2020 as the pandemic hit London.
There will then be a clamour to sign the rising star to the pro ranks but he has already had to bat away offers.
Even though he was tempted when the Olympics were in doubt because of Covid-19 and he was watching American star Teofimo Lopez become a unified champion at lightweight in the pro game.
“There was that thing in my mind 'I might just go pro',” he said.
“All these things are getting cancelled, it was 50/50 if it was going on and I'm thinking 'Why am I wasting my time waiting?'
“You see people like Teofimo Lopez who is 23, my age, he's a unified world champion now so that annoyed me a little bit.
“But, at the end of the day, we all have our own paths, I'm in a great position now where I'm world No 3 – so why give that away now?
“I'm going to try to go to these Olympics and do something.”
But he is well aware the offers will be much bigger to turn over if he comes back from Tokyo with an Olympic medal.
Whittaker added: “My dad's phone was ringing off the hook, he didn't even know how people were getting his number.
“It's great to see that interest is there. With a medal that interest can change a lot so that's our goal.”
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