OUT of the legions of amazing athletes in Australia, few get the chance to train at the illustrious Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), but Macleay born boxer Levi Langham can now count himself among their ranks.
Starting in July, the slugger from Arakoon will be training with some of the finest fighters Australia has to offer, and he couldn't be happier.
"I'm definitely looking forward to mixing it with Australia's best and checking out the Combat Centre down in Canberra," he said.
"They aim to run 5 x 5-day camps before the end of the year; it'll be a great experience training with high-performance athletes."
To gain entry to the elite sports centre, Langham had to fit strict criteria.
His past achievements, recent performances, effort at training, attendance, coachability and overall ability were all taken into account.
"I earned my position in the Queensland Futures Program for a second year," Langham said.
"A small group of the best amateur boxers in Queensland are selected, and then only a handful of the best Youth and Elite boxers are then chosen from each state to train in the National Futures Program.
"A National Selection Panel then choose 12 for the National Futures Camp at the AIS."
The National Futures Program is designed to identify athletes who have the skill, ability and drive to achieve elite status in their chosen sport.
Langham has all these traits in spades.
Nothing illustrates that more than his new life goal, which will see him chase the dream of representing the nation on the international stage after the opportunity was stolen from him at the AIBA Youth World Boxing Championships.
"I was already denied the chance to represent our country at Youth Worlds due to COVID-19, but the Commonwealth Games are coming up in 2022, and I will be just old enough to qualify," Langham said.
"I'd say we won't be looking at the boxing scene overseas for now; with the uncertainty that COVID-19 restrictions are creating, it requires a bit of effort to travel in these times.
"It's a shame, but in reality, at this point in time, I'm just happy training at All Star Boxing Academy in Brisbane and getting great sparring with some high-level pros."
His stable of training partners has changed dramatically since his early days fighting under Adam Fathers in the Macleay.
There is one in particular that Langham says has driven him to new heights.
Benny Hussain might not be a household name just yet, but he has forged a reputation in boxing circles as one of the toughest men in the game.
"Benny fought seven rounds against Ben Mahoney with a broken jaw last year; he is unbelievably tough," Langham said.
"Every time I work with him, I notice clear improvements, when improvements are usually hard to notice.
"When I first started doing partner work with him, I found it hard to hit him, but now I'm able to tee off on him and I don't feel out of place.
The first round was tough, but I probably landed a lot more of the cleaner shots. I dominated the centre of the ring and wore him down in the second.- Levi Langham
"My coach, Benny Harrington, has a theory that there is no better training than consistent, hard sparring."
This mentality has seen Langham rack up an impressive number of accolades and go the distance with some elite-level strikers.
"A couple of weeks back, I fought a 21 year old gun who has done a bit internationally," he said.
"Only three months ago, my dad was unsure about me sparring him, but I had developed a great deal in the months prior, and I was more than up for the challenge come fight night."
The fight ended up being one of the toughest of his career so far, but the former St Paul's College student rallied in the second round and chopped his opponent down.
"The first round was tough, but I probably landed a lot more of the cleaner shots. I dominated the centre of the ring and wore him down in the second," Langham said.
"I was too active and physical for him in the third and ended up winning by unanimous decision.
"That was a big win for me; we were the Main Event of a 56-bout fight card. My opponent has turned pro since that fight."
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