Whilst all Irish eyes at the Excel Centre this week focus on the performance of the six Irish contestants here, let us not forget that some of the world’s leading amateur boxers are also taking part as we see here from the AIBA’s own ringside staff.
The Olympic Boxing Test Event is the dress rehearsal for the main event next year and a high number of competitive boxers will be competing in this star-studded event.
Among the female fighters, five-time AIBA World Champion Chungneijang Mary Kom of India is the big favourite to win the Flyweight division. Russia’s veteran Olesya Gladkova, AIBA Women’s World Championships silver medallist and current European Champion Nicola Adams will be Kom’s main challengers.
Fighting for gold in the women’s Lightweight division are amongst others Russia’s AIBA Youth World Champion Anastasiya Belyakova, China’s AIBA World Championships silver medallist Cheng Dong, AIBA World Championships bronze medallist Queen Underwood from the United States and Natasha Jonas of England, who are all considered contenders.
A great battle is expected between reigning AIBA World Champion Roselli Feitosa of Brazil and the best local hope, AIBA World Championships silver medallist Savannah Marshall in the Middleweight category. Kazakhstan’s Asian Champion Dariga Shakimova should also be considered a gold medal contender in this event.
In the men’s draw at the ExCeL, one of the biggest names in the competition is AIBA World Championships silver medallist Eduard Abzalimov of Russia. He missed the AIBA World Championships in Baku but has the power and skills to go all the way at London 2012. His compatriot Maksim Koptyakov became the Middleweight European Champion in Ankara while 19-year-old Russian Avak Uzliyan is one of boxing’s brightest prospects.
A strong Irish team is also involved in this test event; they will be led by John Joe Nevin who became the country’s first boxer to win two bronze medals in the history of the AIBA World Championships while Beijing Olympic Games silver medallist veteran Kenneth Egan is also included in the squad.
Kazakhstan’s Asian Games silver medallist Birzhan Zhakipov was a gold medal contender at the AIBA World Championships in Baku but was eliminated by Cuba’s Yosvany Veitia on his debut in the Azeri capital. The Light Flyweight boxer will want to set the record straight in London whilst his teammates, National Champion Samat Bashenov and Asian Champion Vasiliy Levit, will also look to make a name for themselves.
Asian boxing power Uzbekistan is competing has brought many fresh faces to compete in London. AIBA President’s Cup winner Orzubek Shaymov and 18-year-old Shakhobiddin Zoirov have already competed in major tournaments but Sukhrob Bobonazarov and Ravshanjon Abdunazarov will be making their debuts at the elite level when they take to the ring at the ExCeL.
Brazil’s World Military Games winner Robson Conceicao and 22-year-old AIBA World Championships bronze medallist Esquiva Florentino Falcao have both qualified for the London Olympic Games. Their team also boasts tough WSB fighter Yamaguchi Florentino Falcao who will be competing in the Light Heavyweight division.
Mexico’s AIBA World Championships bronze medallist and former AIBA Youth World Champion Oscar Valdez was excellent at the Panamerican Games in Guadalajara but just missed out on gold after losing his final against Cuba’s Lazaro Alvarez. Valdez is now considered one of the favourites in the Bantamweight category.
Australia’s Youth Olympic Games winner Damien Hooper is the only boxer from the Oceania region who has already secured his quota place for London 2012. His teammate Luke Boyd advanced to the last 16 in Baku but missed out on qualification having failed at the last hurdle. National Champion Jeff Horne is also involved with the Australian team at this test event.