On Friday night, 19-year-old Tom Welland looked every inch the professional as he outpointed the decent Marvin Solano over six man-making rounds at London’s York Hall, but if the unbeaten featherweight has his way he will once again pull on an amateur vest and compete at the Olympic Games in Paris this summer.

Welland, 4-0 (2 KOs), was an excellent 57kg amateur, winning multiple championships and boxing for England on numerous occasions. Caught in a log jam of talent and frustrated by his lack of opportunities to progress with Team GB, Welland began to feel his dream of appearing at the Paris Games slipping away and decided to explore his Filipino heritage.

Welland’s mother is from Cebu in the Philippines and his dual nationality opened up another avenue to potential qualification.

Last year, Welland travelled to the Philippines and took part in a training camp with the Olympic squad in the mountains of Baguio. The initial aim was to earn a place at the Asian Games which took place in Hangzhou, China last September. A medal winning performance there would have earned him a spot in Paris.

Just 18 at the time, Welland earned the number two position in the squad and impressed but returned home without any certainty.

With the International Olympic Committee embroiled in a dispute regarding the IBA’s governance of the sport, he decided to swerve the uncertainty and capitalise on the rule introduced before the 2016 Games which allows professional fighters to compete at the Olympics.

Welland signed a professional deal with Wasserman and made his debut last November. To confirm his commitment to the Philippines, he ensured a clause was inserted in his contract which would allow him to compete in the Olympics if the opportunity arose. 

That final opportunity is now just six weeks away and the door is still slightly ajar.

“Possibly. There’s still that chance,” Welland told BoxingScene. “The last qualifier – worldwide – is in Bangkok in June because the Olympics start at the end of July. I haven’t spoken to them in a little while but I was speaking to one of my friends who’s just come back and he said they have been talking about me. They may reach out in the next couple of weeks about going to Bangkok. We’ll just have to wait and see. 

“I would go back. If they came to me and said they wanted me to do it then I’d pause my professional career for six weeks and go back to do it. Definitely.”

This isn’t a marriage of convenience. Welland is fiercely proud of his background and talks about wanting to take a charity event back to Manila featuring a whole host of British-based Filipino sporting figures. He understands just how beneficial it could be to his career if he can engage the support of the Filipino community both here and back in the Philippines.

He has already received a video message of support from multi-weight world champion and national hero, Manny Pacquaio, and the former senator is fully aware of his mission. Welland realises that he is a few world title belts away from acquiring a fraction of the fame that ‘The National Fist’ earned but knows just what an Olympic spot could do for his career.

“It would sky rocket me. My value would go right up,” he said. “Wasserman would love me to do it too if I had the opportunity. Regardless if I was to medal or not, my profile would just sky rocket.”

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