Lauren Price vs Jessica McCaskill: Welsh boxer ready for title shot

Video caption, Olympic champion boxer Price aims for first professional world title

  • Author, Michael Pearlman
  • Role, BBC Sport Wales

An Olympic gold medalist with the chance to join the greats of Welsh boxing as a world champion, Lauren Price is no ordinary sporting star.

As an eight-year-old, Price wrote in a school letter that her three ambitions for her life were to become a world champion kickboxer, play international football for Wales and compete in the Olympics.

A former four-time world champion kickboxer and international soccer player, Price has made her childhood dreams come true.

She now looks to become Wales’ 14th world champion boxer – the first woman – as she challenges Jessica McCaskill for the WBA, IBO and Ring Magazine welterweight titles at the Utilita Arena, Cardiff, in a fight which will be broadcast live on BBC 2 Wales.

Having successfully checked off her childhood bucket list before even turning professional, Price says she is now focused on the legacy part of her career.

“I want to do for Wales what Katie Taylor did for Ireland,” she says.

“They called me Tigger”

Legend, Lauren Price gave up football for Wales to focus on her boxing career

Price says she owes everything she has in life to her grandparents Derek and Linda.

At just three days old, it was decided that her parents would not be able to care for her and her grandparents “saved me from a life of foster care.”

Their house in Ystrad Mynach became Price’s home and it was evident from an early age that sport was to be Price’s main focus and salvation.

Nicknamed Tigger because of his boundless energy, Price spent his childhood and adolescence training tirelessly in soccer and kickboxing.

His first kickboxing coach, Rob Taylor, remembers his insatiable work rate.

“She wanted to work so much. She always wanted to go to work,” he remembers.

“She trained seven, eight, nine, ten hours a week. Three, four nights a week. Her grandpa and her grandpa would bring her. She’s back, again and again.

“We would try a competition and she would do well in it. Then we would move on. Her work rate was contagious.”

Price won four senior world kickboxing titles, as well as a host of European gold medals and her grandparents were with her every step of the way.

At the age of 14 she was no longer allowed to play football with boys, so she moved to Georgetown Girls in Merthyr Tydfil and then to Cardiff City Women.

“At training, she arrived early. Sometimes even before having installed the cones. And she would be there until the end,” recalls her former coach Lesley-Ann Judd.

“If she needed to work on something, she would. She listened and everything was perfect.”

Price represented Wales at under-16, under-17, under-19 and senior level – all before his 17th birthday.

She went on to play for her country 52 times across all age groups and captained Wales under-19s, winning two senior caps.

“Kelly Holmes inspired me”

Before she was even 18, Price had achieved two of her three ambitions, but the desire to become an Olympian never wavered, something that had stuck with her since watching Kelly Holmes win Olympic gold .

Raised by her grandmother Linda to believe that her dreams were achievable if she worked hard enough, Price briefly tried taekwondo – she moved to Manchester and lived with future Olympic gold medalist Jade Jones – but the sport was not entirely appropriate.

Better with her hands than her legs, Price tried boxing and in 2014 she got the chance to box for Team Wales, before joining Team Great Britain after the 2016 Olympics.

Price was a “natural talent”, according to GB Boxing performance director Rob McCracken, still her coach today, but she had worked extremely hard even to reach Sheffield.

Welsh boxer Kyren Jones, who boxed for Team Wales with Price at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, remembers how different her life was to the rest of the Welsh team.

“We would work all week and then try to recover over the weekend,” he told BBC Sport Wales.

“But Lauren, she was out Friday and Saturday nights, working for her grandparents, driving a taxi. She was just relentless. He’s someone I’ve always admired.

Price remembers “carrying drunks to and from Cardiff” while chasing his Olympic dream.

Video caption, Lauren Price: World title fight is ‘just the beginning’

Gold in Tokyo and MBE

Price won gold at the delayed Tokyo Olympics, fulfilling her life’s ambition by beating China’s Li Qian, the world champion, in the final.

Sadly, grandfather Derek was not there to see him, having died in November 2020 from dementia.

Price, who always showed her grandfather his medals, returned home and placed her gold medal next to the vase containing his ashes.

“He played a major role in my life and career and when I won gold you saw me look up,” Price said. “I think he despised me that day. Regardless, he and my grandmother will always be a big part of my life.

“He was my number one fan.”

Awarded an MBE for her services to sport, Price’s childhood dreams had all come true before she even turned professional.

“Reach for the moon and if you don’t make it, you’ll always land on the stars”

Price moved to the professional ranks after the Olympics, admitting her phone “blew up” with offers from all the major British boxing promoters.

She chose to join the Boxxer stable and fight on Sky Sports and has looked extremely impressive in the welterweight division, winning every round of her six professional fights.

Now, however, she fights top welterweight Jessica McCaskill in a bid to make history as Wales’ first women’s world champion.

Wales’ 13th world champion Joe Cordina is confident his friend will get the job done.

“It’s within reach for her, all she has to do is grab it now,” he said.

“I hope she enjoys every second of it.” Fighting for a world title in her home country is special, she should soak it up. I believe she will win, but she may not fight again in Cardiff.

Another Welsh former world champion, Barry Jones, says Price is a “special” talent.

“McCaskill is a top 10 fighter pound for pound… on paper it’s a big ask, it’s even too big a ask,” he said.

“But I think Lauren wins and I think she does it. If she frustrates her with her movement, Price will get to work and put on a dominant performance. I think she will organize a masterclass.

Price believes his time has come to add his name to the greats of Welsh boxing.

“I haven’t stepped out of my comfort zone yet, I’ve won every round of every professional fight I’ve had, I’ve had fun. I think Jessica is going to be my toughest test, she’s going to ask me questions,” she added.

“But I believe I will win and also put in a classy performance. There’s so much more to come from me that people haven’t seen yet.

“As my grandmother told me: ‘Reach for the moon and if you don’t make it, you’ll still land on the stars.’ »

You can watch Lauren Price vs. Jessica McCaskill for the welterweight world title on BBC Two WalesSaturday May 11 at 9:00 p.m. BST and later on request.

BBC Wales was also granted exclusive access to the Price camp in the days leading up to the fight.