By Cain Bradley
The most decorated man in this division is Roniel Iglesias (Cuba). He was the Olympic champion in 2012, won bronze in 2008 and was knocked out in the 2016 Quarter Final. He was a World Champion in 2009 and only recently added to his tally with a silver in 2017. The southpaw is getting on at 32, but still has fast hands. He knows how to get through these tournaments and his experience will no doubt win him bouts that others would lose. He is one of four fighters who fought in the 2012 Games as well as appearing here. Vikas Krishan (India) lost in the round of the sixteen to Errol Spence before going one better and making the quarter final in 2016 losing to Bektemir Melikuziev. He has numerous medals in Asian competitions over the years, won Commonwealth gold in 2018 and has a World Championship bronze from 2011. Signed with Top Rank, he has a 2-0 professional record. He fights as a southpaw where he can mix his punches up very well with great accuracy.
Gabriel Maestre (Venezuela) was there in both 2012 and 2015 making the quarter final on both occasions where he lost to the men who went on to win gold medals. Another who has turned professional and is ranked very highly with the WBA given his 3-0 record which includes a good win over Diego Chaves. He is strong and carries power, especially with his looping shots. However, he often fights at a slow tempo, something that his foray into the paid ranks will not help. The other is Andrey Zamkovoy(Russia) who won an Olympic bronze in 2012 but was upset in 2016 by Rayton Okwiri. He is the current World Champion, a tricky southpaw with superb timing, who overcame Pat McCormack (Great Britain) to win the title.
McCormack is another Commonwealth champion who also won the European Games in 2019. He is a dangerous puncher, mainly because of his good timing and sharp punches. He has a brilliant one-two which he uses in many ways as a tactically versatile boxer. He fought in the 2016 Olympics, going out in the round of sixteen to Yasniel Toledo. The following round Toledo was defeated by Lorenzo Sotomayor(Azerbaijan). The former Cuban boxer went on to win silver in 2016. He is another former winner of the European Games, but this may well be his final chance at 36. That may explain some losses to lower levels of competition over the last few years. He is a classy boxer with lanky arms.
Perhaps the man with the most pressure entering this competition will be Ablaikhan Zhussupov (Kazakhstan) who lost to McCormack in 2016. The pressure will come as the last four gold medals winners in this division have been from Kazakhstan. He is not without a chance, Zhussupov is a double World Championship bronze medalist. He boxes at range, mainly looking to counter punch where he is efficient, hardly wasting a punch. He won silvers at the 2017 and 2021 Asian Championships, losing to Bobo-Usman Baturov(Uzbekistan) in 2021. He was another bronze medal at the 2019 World Championship. He is a switch hitter but mainly fights in southpaw. He looks to work the body, working at a high pace, looking to get on the inside and make things dirty.
As well as the experienced boxers, this division also has some young prospects who may fare better in Paris 2024. Stephen Zimba(Zambia) qualified at just 19 years old. He is a come forward boxer who works the body well. He does pick shots impressively but can be a bit wild. The power is real though, he stopped favourite Merven Clair (Mauritius) in the African qualifying event. He is another competitor who boxed in the 2016 Olympics, but was defeated in round one. Out of the southpaw stance, he has quick hands and is always bouncing on his toes, looking to move in and out of range.
Aliaksandr Radzionau (Belarus) is another young contender and will turn 20 just before the Olympics. Radzionau mainly likes to work on the inside, so will launch aggressive attacks on his way in. He made the final of the Strandja 2020 tournament. In the box-off at the European qualifiers it was Necat Ekinci (Turkey) he beat. He is a tricky southpaw, with good movement and speed. Another European boxer to qualify was Aidan Walsh (Ireland). He was a Commonwealth Games silver medalist in 2018, one of three defeats handed to him by Pat McCormack. He uses his height and length, is equally adept in either stance and has fast hands. He was gold medalist at the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games.
Even more successful as a youth boxer was Delante Johnson (United States) winning the youth World Championships in 2016. He will turn 23 just after the Olympics finish and ‘Tiger’ is a speedy boxer-puncher who has a good control of distance and some think could be the best American prospect. Another of the impressive young boxers is Eskerkhan Madiev (Georgia). The Georgian is the European under-22 champion. He is a textbook boxer who picks his punches very well and hits with some power. Albert Mengue (Cameroon) turned 22 at the start of the year. He also boxes on the front foot, looking to land his massive right hand which he throws with big power. He beat Shadri Bwogi (Uganda) in the African qualification event. He’s another southpaw who hits hard with wild attacks that can see him fall in. At the Commonwealth Games in 2018 he defeated Merven Clair before going out to Pat McCormack. Another man that Mengue beat in the qualification event was Thabiso Dlamini (Eswatini). He will be the first boxer since 2000 to compete for Eswatini, formerly Swaziland, but has always struggled when stepping up in class as also seen by a 2014 Commonwealth Games defeat by Zack Davies.
Sewonrets Okazawa (Japan) will be supported by his home crowd and is arguably one of their stronger chances. He is a flashy combination puncher with fast feet and hands who works a high pace. He won 2019 Asian championship silver, defeating Zeyad Eashash(Jordan). He is another relentless boxer who picks punches well. He has split results with Boturov. Rohan Polanco (Dominican Republic) has also split results with some of the elite of the division. Another young boxer, he has three disputed losses with Iglesias but has a big win over Maestre. He has already turned over and is already 4-0 as a professional. He relies on upper body movement, his lead hand mainly kept low and using his speed to get to his opponents. Wyatt Sandford (Canada) has mostly lost when stepping up the quality of opponent but the 22-year-old southpaw did make the last 16 of the World Championships. Marion Faustino Ah Tong (Samoa) is nicknamed Matrix. He’s a natural orthodox that operates out of the southpaw stance. His lack of speed may cause his issues against the better boxers.