By Cain Bradley
Perhaps the standout boxer in the amateur world is Andy Cruz (Cuba). Many people will consider him the pound for pound king but this will be his first Olympic Games. He is the reigning double World Champion. His quick reflexes and smart footwork allow him to keep his hands low, whilst he attacks with variety and a sharp jab. He has barely lost over this Olympic cycle, with only one international loss coming against Sofiane Oumiha (France). He is looking to improve on his silver medal from 2016 in the 60kg division, where his run included a win over Teofimo Lopez. He went on to be World Champion in 2017 and European Champion in 2018. He is tricky defensively, fluid with his combinations and is very experienced in these big tournaments. He will be hard to hit, often looking to leave the exchange with the final punch landed. He was defeated in the quarter final of the 2019 World Championships by Keyshawn Davis (United States) who went on to earn silver, losing a close decision to Cruz. His qualification is no doubt controversial, having been removed from USA Boxing’s team for Olympic qualifying after violating athlete selection procedures, which disqualified him from Olympic participation. The speedy southpaw had gone 3-0 as a professional before getting his Olympic status confirmed. He’s tactically versatile, able to come forward and pressure opponents but also can use his long arms to control range.
It was Manish Kaushik (India) who he beat in the semi final, the Indian fighter taking a bronze medal. He qualified ahead of compatriot Shiv Thapa having moved up from 60kg. He is a southpaw who will use his speed and counter punching. He could only win a Commonwealth Games silver medal, down at 60kg, losing in the final to Harry Garside (Australia). Another southpaw, he keeps his lead hand low but is always triggering looking to open up opportunities for his attacks. His record against the top level fighters in the division does leave something to be desired. Another Commonwealth Games gold medalist is Jonas Jonas (Namibia). The Namibian flag bearer in Rio, he is a southpaw who throws quick combinations and sharp jabs behind consistent pressure. He upset the qualification number one seed, Abdelhaq Nadir (Morocco) who had won the African Games in 2019. Nadir keeps a high guard but can be caught by good counter punchers as he over extends. Another seed to be upset in qualification was Hovhannes Bachkov (Armenia). He has won World Championship bronze medals at the last two tournaments as well as a European Championship. He has been aggressively matched compared to his of his peers in amassing a 2-0 professional record. He fights aggressively but keeps his guard tight and along with his good footwork, he is surprisingly tough to land punches against.
Gabil Mamedov (Russia) beat him in the European qualifiers controversially after a cut was declared to be caused by a head butt. He qualified ahead of compatriot Ilya Popov and will box on the front foot looking to dig in his body punches. He has come up from the 60kg division, where he won European Games silver, behind Dzmitry Asanau (Belarus) who also beat him in the Olympic qualifiers. He has a World Championship bronze from 2015 but went out in the second round of the 2016 Olympics when fighting at 56kg. He is a classy fighter with sharp counters and superb movement. It is not only the Olympics of 2016 that will be represented but also 2012. Wessam Salamana (Refugee Team) boxed in London and will be hoping to improve on his loss in the opening bout. The boxer who was born in Syria, tends to attack with looping combinations as he dips his head to avoid attacks. Richarno Colin (Mauritius) returns to the Olympics having missed out in 2016. He competed in both 2008 and 2012. Both times he won a fight, in 2008 it was an upset over Myke Carvalho. He mixes upper body movement with a low lead which often makes him too easy to hit. Despite it being twelve years since his first Olympic Games, he is not the oldest competitor in this division. Zakir Safiullin (Kazakhstan) is 34, having twice won silver in the Asian Championships. Another who came up from the 60kg division, he mixes defensive prowess with attacking instincts that usually sees him exchange punches with his opponent until one retreats.
Baatarsukhiin Chinzorig (Mongolia) improved on a previous silver and bronze to win gold at the 2021 Asian Championships. He competed at the 2016 Games losing in the round of sixteen to Vitaly Dunaytsev. He is a classy operator who puts his combinations together effectively. The man who beat him and went on to win the Asian qualifying event arguably had the toughest route to qualify for the Games. Elnur Abduraimov (Uzbekistan), the World Championship bronze medalist in 2015 goes into the team ahead of Ikboljon Kholdarov. The southpaw is a constant mover who prefers to be on front foot and throws with power. He went out in the 2019 World Championships to Keyshawn Davis and is an unbeaten professional. Another World Champion competing is Javid Chalabiyev (Azerbaijan), who won at 56kg in 2013. He is an ugly fighter who puts on relentless pressure. A boxer who has come up even further through the weights is Leonel de los Santos (Dominican Republic), fighting at Flyweight where he lost to Yoel Finol. The tricky boxer reached the Pan American Championship final in 2019, winning silver. He keeps his hands low and is a technical rangy boxer. The man he beat in the World Championship last sixteen was Luke McCormack (Great Britain). It was a close split decision, a feeling he has gotten used to over the last few years. Sofiane Oumiha defeated him in the European qualification event and Jonas Junius in the Commonwealth Games, both by split decision.
He will not be the only competitor based in Britain. Alston Ryan (Antigua and Barbuda) boxes out of the famous Repton gym. He is a rangy fighter who looks to use movement to get out the way of punches. John Ume (Papua New Guinea) also represents a small island and has similarly struggled with any major step up in competition. He has significant power and looks to land with hooks and looping punches. Yaroslav Khartsyz (Ukraine) was given the Ukrainian spot over Iurii Shestak. He keeps a high guard and throws nice counter punches, but can be overwhelmed. He lost in the 2019 European Games quarter final to Luke McComrack. Another quarter final loser from that tournament was Damian Durkacz (Poland). The young Polish boxer is a textbook boxer who is a multiple national champion. He puts combinations together well and mixes punches to the head and body. Fiston Mbaya Mulumba (Congo) is a textbook boxer but can sometimes struggle with his balance and lack of offensive output. Leodan Pezo (Peru) won a bronze medal at the 2019 Pan American Games down at 60kg where he lost to Lazaro Alvarez. He can switch stances and tends to fight with aggression.
Daisuke Narimatsu (Japan) is a short but aggressive fighter out of the southpaw stance who upset Otar Eranosyan at the last World Championship and won bronze at the 2018 Asian Games. Bakhodur Usmonov (Tajikstan) was the Asian Champion in 2019. He has already signed with MTK Global and is an unbeaten professional. He mixes educated pressure with combination punching and head movement. The silver medal winner in that tournament was Obada Al-Kasbeh (Jordan) adding to a bronze that he won five years earlier. He looks to be aggressive, pressuring his opponent to get on the inside where he works cleverly with hooks. Another continental medalist in 2019 was Enrico LaCruz (Netherlands). The Dutchman has long limbs but struggles to use them to control range and often gives his opponent an easy target. He fought at the Rio Olympics losing in the round of 16 and has only managed to get to the second round of the World Championships on his last two attempts. Performing better at the 2019 World Championship was Wanderson Oliveira (Brazil) who reached the quarter final. Nicknamed sugar, the Brazilian keeps his hands low and looks to fire quick, powerful punches but often fails to follow up with combinations. He is in good form having impressed at the Cologne World Cup.