FLOAT LIKE A BUTTERFLY, STING LIKE A BEE
If gold medals are handed out for confidence then Lutalo Muhammad will top the European Championship medal podium on Friday for a second time in three years. But the 22-year-old ‘Walthamstow Warrior’ has every reason to be optimistic ahead of his -87kg title defence in Baku, Azerbaijan. He’s world number one, current World Grand Prix champion and a bronze medallist from the 2012 Olympic Games. And Muhammad evokes memories of namesake Muhammad Ali as he declares:
“I am going to defend my title successfully and in style. That’s on the record. Physically, mentally and spiritually I am in the best shape I could be for these Championships.”
And there’s no danger of over confidence after a salutary lesson at last season’s WTF World Championships in Mexico. A highly rated squad, including Olympic champion, Jade Jones, finished empty handed with Muhammad beaten in the quarter-finals.
“The World Championships were a wake-up call for all us,” he agrees. “We were expected to win medals in Puebla and it didn’t happen.
Since then they’ve anaylsed themselves as athletes and the staff have done the same. They’ve made changes and these changes have been for the better. Versatile Muhammad has no qualms fighting at -87kg again after winning his Grand Prix title last December at -80kg.
“I was happy to do welterweight (-80kg) or middleweight (-87kg),” he confirmed. “But the selection panel thought it best to give me the opportunity at middleweight. I have really put the work in for these Championships but that goes for the squad as a whole. We’ve had teams from Poland, Serbia and Korea over to the GB Academy in Manchester help us prepare for this event and I am sure that will bring the best out of everyone in Baku.”
With fingers crossed we watch and wait to hear more news from the team soon!