By Cain Bradley
The aforementioned Julio Cesar La Cruz (Cuba) is the biggest name here. Arguably the boxer of the last decade, he has moved up from Light Heavyweight where he was the Olympic Champion in 2016. Nicknamed ‘the shadow’ he has long been defined by incredible movement and defensive reflexes however he has been caught over the last few years. This will also be his first international tournament at the new weight division. Many will consider that there should be two Olympic champions in the field. In a tournament that contained Conlan v Nikitin and Yoka v Joyce many considered Vassilly Levit (Kazakhstan) to be the fighter who received the worst decision. He won a silver medal following his defeat by Evgeny Tishchenko. Since then he has won two World Championship bronze medals. The distinctive bald pressure fighter relies on head movement and a good left hook. Hussain Eashash (Jordan) actually lost to Tony Yoka in the quarter final in Rio after defeating Mihai Nistor, famed for his victory over Anthony Joshua. He comes forward with his hands held high looking to throw his combinations. He won bronze medals in three consecutive Asian Championships. He did not compete in 2021 and instead Sanjar Tursunov (Uzbekistan) took bronze. He is a short and squat boxer who prefers to be on the front foot. He is a good mover with an excellent jab and has already started his professional career, going 3-0 based in America.
Another who has debuted professionally is David Nyika (New Zealand). He won his debut by controversial stoppage. He won the Commonwealth Games in both 2014 and 2018. At 6’4 he tends to work at range looking to land punches on the back foot. He is evasive but mainly throws single shots. He went out to the eventual winner of the World Championship in 2019. Muslim Gadzhimagomedov (Russia) was the winner and also won the European Championship that year. Somehow he used to make light heavyweight at 6’4 but he uses that range well and throws punches from awkward angles. He has no losses against anyone who will compete in this tournament. In the European qualification final he overcame Emmanuel Reyes (Spain). Born in Cuba he won the Boxam Tournament earlier in the year. Another large fighter he, uses his quick feet to get in and out of range and quick hands allowing him to get his combinations of. He upset Radoslav Pantaleev in the European qualification tournament. Another boxer who was upset was Uladzislau Smiahlikau (Belarus). He won silver at the 2019 European Games and impressively defeated Tursunov earlier in the year. He is one of the few men to have the physique to match up with Gadzhimagemodov. He is a lot more untidy though especially with his footwork whilst he mainly relies on straight shots.
The man who beat him was Ammar Abduljabbar (Germany). The small, compact boxer continuously comes forward looking to pressure opponents. His work can get sloppy as the bout progresses, his stamina not matching his aggression, although the strong pace may well have his opponents in trouble first. In the World Championships he went out to Eashash in the third round. He has scored an upset in the previous round by defeating Abdelhafid Benchabla (Algeria) who will compete in his fourth Olympics. Turning 35 later this year, he has made the quarter final on every occasion but never gone on to medal. He is a mover who looks to get his accurate jab off. He won his third African Games in 2019, beating Youness Baalla (Morocco) to take gold. He is quite fast but is not particularly active. He mainly loses when stepping up to the top level. Fellow African boxer Elly Ajowi Ochola (Kenya) has similarly lost most of his big fights. At 38, this may well be his final chance. He has a Commonwealth Games silver medal from 2010 and has won bronze at the two previous African Games. Only 5’9 he will be shorter than almost all of his opponents. He also has a high work rate but can be too hittable. His best weapon is a looping right hand which often follows a jab, merely used as a range finder. Another Commonwealth Games silver medalist is Ato Plodzicki-Faoagali (Samoa). The 22 year old based in Sydney has also moved up from Light Heavyweight. He is a southpaw with fast hands and accurate shots but he can fall in with his feet and neglect defence.
Cheavon Clarke (Great Britain) won bronze in the Heavyweight Commonwealth Games, losing to David Nyika. He has twice reached the World Championship quarter finals and also has two European medals. He also won the Gee Bee Tournament in 2019. He is an athletic fighter with good speed and power who looks to work in flurries. The silver medalist at the 2019 World Championship was Julio Castillo(Ecuador). He has also two silver medals in the Pan-American Games. Castillo last fought internationally in 2019. The southpaw has twice fought in the Olympics, losing his first bout on both occasions. He is defensively responsible with good hand speed and also impressive head movement. To win the Pan-American silver in 2019, he beat Jose Lucar (Peru). He looks to come forward putting pressure on his opponents but his feet often do not move quickly enough. The other bronze medal winner was Abner Teixeira (Brazil). He lost to Tursunov in the World Championships. Another southpaw he keeps his hands beneath his chin but is constantly triggering looking for openings.
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