AS A PRE-LOCKDOWN addition to Frank Warren’s Queensberry ranks, Karol Itauma quickly came to the conclusion he would have to play the waiting game.
Signed up in early March, the prospect of the Olympic Youth gold medallist quickly launching his professional career at light heavyweight evaporated when the nation was confined to barracks first time around, but back then nobody imagined that the sport would not return until July – and then only in a limited fashion.
And when it comes to young boxers making their debut, the temptation would always be to wait until an army of family and friends are able to attend and lend support to the new adventure. Because of closure of the British boxing’s HQ due to Covid-19, there was a backlog of new licence applications resulting in new boys and girls having to wait until September before these started to be processed.
So it was a lengthy time in limbo for the recently turned 20-year-old before he was officially permitted to join the punching payroll. Karol admits that there was a stage when he feared his professional voyage would not embark until 2021 was underway.
“It was the point when everything started getting seriously bad,” reflected the eight-time national champion. “I thought, at first, it would just be a few months and that would be it with everything going back to normal. When things began getting bad I thought ‘wow, I might not be able to box until next year’, but then luckily I got a call from Francis (manager, Warren) just after my birthday asking if I was ready.
“I absolutely was and took the opportunity with both hands.”
The opportunity, of course, was a prime slot on the December 5 show – headlined by Anthony Yarde and Lyndon Arthur – that marked Frank Warren’s 40th year in the sport.
“It was definitely a great opportunity and I am grateful for that,” continued the now 1-0 prospect. “It was brilliant to be on TV and the whole process was an experience, although the boxing side was nothing new. Everything else was extra and it was a bonus and the major difference was obviously the stage, the lights, the cameras and stuff like that.
“When I looked back it was great to hear what other people had to say about it on BT Sport. It told me what I need to improve on and I took it as a positive.”
Going in against the redoubtable Lewis van Poetsch on debut must seem a far cry from the elite level combat Karol engaged in across his stellar amateur career. Van Poetsch more than knows all the ropes and the chances of an opening night KO were somewhat remote.
The Slovakian-born Karol is aware that more of the same is in the pipeline as he navigates a path through his brave new world.
“Of course it is not the same as I was used to, but my next few fights are going to be like that and about learning, adapting to the professional style. It will prepare me and get me the experience for when I am ready to step up and show I have the tools and ability to make statements.
“The key area I want to improve on is my upper body movement, so we will be working on that,” he added, before pondering whether claiming an unlikely stoppage would have been a bonus or not.
“Yes and no. I got a good four rounds under my belt, but part of you will always want the stoppage and that cherry on the cake. It is probably better to get the valuable experience.”
The first mile on his clock, of course, came without passengers. Karol concedes he does feel he has missed out on a milestone moment, but is ready to play it again when normality creeps back into daily life.
“Slightly, yeah, but I look at positive things and the way I am looking at it now is I will kind of get two debuts. The one I had in December and another one when it does open up again. You have to take the best out of things.”