National amateur champion Ben Whittaker believes he is ready to make the step-up to international level after receiving a first call-up by Team England.
The exciting Wodensborough ABC talent successfully negotiated his route through England and GB training camps over the summer to earn his place, and will make his bow in Denmark on Saturday in a dual match.
The invitation crowns an exceptional 12 months for the Midlands prospect who retained his county titles earlier this year following a first national championship success in December 2013.
However Whittaker insists that representing his country will be the proudest moment of his career yet, and hopes to do the England vest justice.
‘Walking to the ring in the England vest will be a dream come true.’ Whittaker said.
‘It’s hard to describe. It means everything to me. There’s no higher honour than representing your country.
‘I’ve won titles for my county, and now I’m focused on doing the same for my country.
‘As a kid, you grow up dreaming of representing your country, and everything I’ve done up until now has been leading to this moment.
‘My dad and my trainer have always been supportive and told me that I could do it, so I’m looking forward to doing it for them, too.
‘Some boxers make millions from the sport and go their whole career without ever representing their country. But for me, it’s an experience you can’t buy and something I wouldn’t swap for anything.
‘I’m grateful for the opportunity, and I intend to take it with both hands.’
The 17-year-old has featured in various training camps throughout the year, including a Team GB Emerging Talent group in August at the home of British boxing in Sheffield.
Although possessing aspirations of competing in major tournaments for England on the world stage, Whittaker admits that he’s been warned against sentimentality on Saturday, and can not afford any errors.
‘Of course it’s going to be a great occasion for everyone travelling, but we’ve got a job to do, and the most important thing is that we represent England as best as we can and come away with the win.’ He added.
‘It can be easy to get lost in an arena or overawed by an occasion, and that’s something my trainer and I have been working on – the mental side of my game.
‘Like anyone, I’m confident in my ability against anyone I come up against, and I’ve worked hard for this. The only way I’m going to lose is if I beat myself – and that’s not going to happen.
‘There’s a lot of talented fighters coming through in England, and I know that I can’t afford any errors if I’m to keep my place.’