By Cain Bradley
Arguably the standout at the 2019 World Championships was Mirazizbek Mirzakhalilov (Uzbekistan). Also a champion at the Asian Championships and Asian Games, he overcome the top three seeds consecutively to take gold. He works at an incredibly high pace and is probably at his best in the mid range where he can use his angles, combination punching and power. It was Lázaro Alvarez (Cuba) he beat in the final, taking his second straight World Championship silver after three World Championship golds. Only the most recent and first medals did not come in the lightweight division at 60kg, meaning he has to boil himself down to the 57kg limit. He fights a typical Cuban style, out of the southpaw stance with low hands, relying on incredible reflexes and defence. Many observers believed that he was lucky to make the final, having controversially defeated Peter McGrail (Great Britain). McGrail became a two time bronze medalist, having also got there in 2017. He is a European and Commonwealth Champion but could only win bronze at the 2019 European Games. McGrail is a southpaw with brilliant footwork and accurate punches. Kurt Walker (Ireland) was the man who beat him at the European Games, his second straight win against his British foe after losing the previous two. He looks to attack with long straight punches. Hamsat Shadalov(Germany) defeated Walker in the qualifiers staying out of range and looking to slip punches before countering once in range. He also has a win over Robeisy Ramirez.
Mykola Butsenko (Ukraine) was defeated by Walker in the European Games final. He is another southpaw with fast hands, whose best international result came with a World Championship bronze in 2013. He also has three European Championship bronze medals. The other World Championship bronze medalist from 2013 will also compete, Chatchai Butdee (Thailand). Similarly, he has not manage to impress internationally to the same level since although did win the Asian Games in 2015. He competed at the last Olympics and after beating Qais Ashfaq was arguably unlucky to go down to Vladimir Nikitin who famously went on to be gifted the decision against Michael Conlan. He also fights out of the southpaw stance and uses his veteran know how to make himself tough to beat. He was defeated in the Asian qualifiers by Van Duong Nguyen (Vietnam) who stopped Butdee after dropping him twice in the first round. He became the first Vietnamese boxer to qualify for the Olympics since 1988. He is a swarming power puncher who looks to start fights fast and finish them early. The man who beat him at the qualifier was Mohammad Al-Wadi (Jordan), inspired by his home crowd to reach the final of the Asian qualification tournament and is an elder statesman at 34 who is difficult to keep on top of.
In the African qualifiers it was the case of the young and old. Nick Okoth (Kenya) nicknamed “the commander,” returns after a 12 year exodus from the Games. At the ripe old age of 37, perhaps more likely to scar opposition are two twenty year olds Everisto Mulenga(Zambia) and Samuel Takyi (Ghana). Mulenga would be the boxer I expect to do better. His fast hands got him to the quarter finals of the 2018 Commonwealth Games at just 18. Takyi will be must watch though with an all-action style including some brilliant hooks. Jose Quiles (Spain) is one of the younger boxers who has missed out on a lot of time over the previous two years due to injuries. Even younger is Danial Shahbakhsh (Iran) having only just turned 21. He is a slick counter punching southpaw who had impressive wins over Mohamed Hamout (Morocco) and Rex Tso in the Olympic qualifiers. He also won silver at the Asian Championships in 2021 at 60kg.
Roland Galos (Hungary) was a very good youth boxer and has actually fought both Joe Cordina and Somiane Oumiha to close split decision losses. Mirko Cuello (Argentina) was a Youth Olympic bronze medalist and will be only 20 when the Olympics take place. He is also a southpaw who looks to put combinations together. Mohamed Hamout will compete in his second Olympics, having actually defeated Butsenko before going out to Robeisy Ramirez in 2016. He looks to come forward but often the footwork can be sloppy and he becomes hittable.
Another Olympic veteran is Ceibar Avila (Colombia). He went out in the quarter finals in 2016, arguably unlucky to lose a unanimous decision to Misha Aloyan. He is a southpaw who fights on the front foot. In the 2019 World Championships he went out in round two, losing to Kurt Walker but only after beating Samuel Kistohurry (France). He has gone 3-0 as a professional and hunts for his dangerous left hook. The Frenchman lost in the final of the European qualification tournament to Albert Batyrgaziev (Russia). The 22 year old southpaw has long been regarded a strong prospect and was the boxer of the 2019 Cologne World Cup. He also won the European qualification tournament. He is an accurate power puncher with good head movement.
Serik Temirzhanov (Kazakhstan) was the boxer of the 2019 Boksai tournament. He has incredible footwork and dangerous counter punching. It shows the incredible strength of Kazakh boxing where many think he may not have me been the best option, with his making the team ahead of 2017 world champion Kairat Yeraliev. In the final he overcame Duke Ragan (United States). The talented young American will only be 23 when the Olympics happen and is already 4-0 as a professional. He is an awkward boxer with lightning speed and a great jab. However, he did not actually win his place on the American team, losing in the Olympic trials, only for the qualification system to change allowing him back onto the team.
He also had a surprising loss at the Pan-American qualification tournament, going out to Jean Caicedo (Ecuador). The accurate puncher has mainly lost when stepping up to that level of competition but his win over Ragan will give him hope that he can compete here. One of those losses came at the Pan-American Games to Alexis De La Cruz (Dominican Republic). He hardly ever leads, instead looking to draw in his opponent, lean away and then counter from his southpaw stance.
Another southpaw is Erdenebatyn Tsendbaatar (Mongolia). He was the World Championship bronze medalist in 2019 and lost in the Olympic quarter final to Shakur Stevenson. An unbeaten pro he has a high work rate and digs in brilliant body hooks. His fight from the 2019 World Championship against Mirzakhalilov was a sight to behold. Tayfur Aliyev (Azerbaijan) went out to Peter McGrail in the third round. He puts his combinations together well and has good footwork, with impressive wins over Kistohurry and Hamout. He has long been regarded a good prospect. As has Keevin Allicock (Guyana) who will be the first Guyanese boxer in the Olympics since the turn of the century. He was an impressive youth boxer and is accurate with his combinations although often doesn’t move his head once engaged with an opponent.
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