By Cain Bradley
One of the most decorated divisions it is fiercely competitive. Two Olympic medalists return in Li Qian (China) and Nouchka Fontijn(Netherlands). Qian went on to be world Championship in 2018, improving on her silver from 2014 and is the double Asian champion. She is an awkward switch hitter, who is rangy at 5’11 and has a good job. Fontijn has never won World Championship gold, taking three silvers and a bronze to add to her Olympic silver from 2016. She has a 2-4 record against Qian. A tall boxer, she boxes long, using her straight punches to not only score but to keep her opponents away from landing punches on her. A double European champion, she is in good form this season having won the Cologne Boxing World Cup. Fontijn was defeated this season though, by Zemfira Magomedalieva (Russia) in the Olympic qualifiers. She is a twice World and European champion. She won world titles at heavyweight and light heavyweight before coming down to middleweight, whilst both European titles came at heavyweight. That size and strength is her biggest asset but she can get into scrappy fights and may find the speed of these boxers too much to cope with. The 33 year old will be hoping her body can cope with making weight throughout the tournament. Pooja Rani (India) will be dropping down from light heavyweight where she was the 2019 Asian champion, before winning the 2021 edition at middleweight. A southpaw, she is quick on her feet and puts her combinations together well.
The reigning African Games winner is Khadeeja El-Mardi (Morocco) who also won bronze at the 2019 World Championship. She lost in the 2016 Olympics in the quarter finals. Another big power, she looks to land with power behind her strong jab, as she lures opponents in. In the African Games final she beat Rady Gramane (Mozambique). An energetic southpaw, she seems to be at her best when given time to pick shots. The other competitor who also competed in 2016 is Atheyna Bylon (Panama). She has moved up in weight, after being winning welterweight gold at the 2014 World Championships. Bylon competed in that division as recently as the 2019 Pan-American Games, where she only lost to Oshae Jones on a split decision. She is a southpaw who uses quick dynamic attacks, usually looking to counter opponents. Up at middleweight, the Pan-American Games went to Jessica Caicedo, but was later stripped of that gold after receiving a doping suspension. Instead the gold went to Naomi Graham (United States). She will become the first female active duty US Army member to box for her country in the Olympics. At the 2018 World Championships she made won bronze before losing in the 2019 quarter final. Graham won the Strandja tournament during the year and is a strong boxer but is also technically skilled.
The 2019 quarter final saw her lose out Tammara Thibeault (Canada), a fourth consecutive loss to her younger foe. Another big boxer, she picks punches intelligently from her southpaw stance. Often she looks awkward because of the long limbs but it is effective. She went on to win bronze, improving from a quarter final in 2018 and also won silver at the Pan-American Games. The other medalist who will compete is bronze medal winner Erika Pachito (Ecuador). A good attacking fighter, she can be sloppy defensively, especially when attacked. The current world champion is Lauren Price (Great Britain). She improved on a bronze from 2018 and also won the European Games and the Commonwealth Games. A former footballer and kick-boxer she is short for the division. Another southpaw, despite her short reach, she likes to work on the outside leaping in with sharp attacks. She has not lost in international competition since 2018. It was Fontijn who last beat, Price has since gone on to beat her twice. Prior to Fontijn it was Caitlin Parker (Australia) who last beat Price. She also battled competitively in the Commonwealth Games where she won silver. Another classy boxers who uses her long, straight punches to trouble opponents with brilliant speed and reflexes.
Nadezhda Ryabets (Kazakhstan) is a 20 year old who was an impressive youth boxer, winning bronze at the Youth Olympics in 2018 and a junior world champion. A switch hitter she prefers to operate in southpaw and has a tendency to make things scrappy. A stout frame, she puts her combinations together well on the inside. Also 20 is Ichrak Chaib (Algeria), who was beaten by Ryabets for bronze at the Olympics. She has also come down from a heavier weight and has good footwork as well as impressive punch variety.
Elzbieta Wojcik (Poland) was a Youth Olympic gold medalist back in 2014. Arguably she has never quite lived up to that billing, with medals in the European Games and Championships, but no gold. Wojcik is comfortable with her hands low, attacking from her southpaw stance. She qualified by the Olympic rankings, after losing to Aoife O’Rourke (Ireland) in qualifying. Only 24, she is improving rapidly after winning the European Championship in 2019, where she also defeated Wojcik. She attacks behind a dangerous straight right. Monkhbatyn Myagmarjargal (Mongolia) is the first female Mongolian boxer in the Olympics, looking to emulate some of her successful male compatriots. She won bronze at the Asian Championships earlier this year. A busy boxer, she is always probing with her lead hands and puts combinations together well.
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