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The 13 boxers who will shape 2020

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REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado
In each Olympic category, John Dennen picks out the boxers to follow over the course of the year ahead

Male: 52kgs: Shakhobidin Zoirov (Uzbekistan)
The boxers listed here are the men and women who could shape the amateur boxing year ahead, the ones that we’re picking to watch through the Olympic qualification events over the coming months and ultimately at Tokyo 2020. The first qualifier is the Asia/Oceania event in Wuhan, China, that begins on February 3. For the last decade or so Kazakhstan have been particularly strong in this region. But the Uzbek team was highly impressive at the last Olympics. They’ll be led into the campaign by the reigning Olympic and World flyweight champion Shakhobidin Zoirov.

57kgs: Kurt Walker (Ireland)
The weight divisions changed between the European Games and the World championships last year, incredibly late in the Olympic cycle for such a major alteration. Kurt Walker, after winning the European Games at 56kgs had to move up for the Worlds. The new division will have a select few moving down from lightweight, so bantams have to make adjustments. Ireland have a proud Olympic tradition, but with stars like Michael Conlan excelling in the pros, it’s time for Walker now to take the limelight.

63kgs: Andy Cruz (Cuba)
While some of Cuba’s excellent team are getting increasingly long in the tooth for the electric pace set over three rounds of amateur boxing, Andy Cruz is coming into his own. He is a brilliant talent to watch; fast, clever and hard to hit, as well as performing with complete confidence. In the new 63kgs division he will be the man to beat.

69kgs: Sewonrets Okazawa (Japan)
The host nation does get a set number of places so there will be Japanese representation at their home Olympics. But it always helps to bring the tournament to life if the host nation boxers do well enough to generate excitement. Welterweight is an extremely tough division, with England’s Pat McCormack and Russia’s Andrey Zamkovoy, a London 2012 veteran, the global leaders at the moment. Okazawa will be a wildcard but he has power, is difficult to box and entertaining to watch.

75kgs: Eumir Marcial (Philippines)
The Philippines is looking for the next Manny Pacquiao. It’s far too early to be doling out that kind of praise to Olympic prospects, however the heavy-handed Eumir Marcial could be a future star. He is an exciting talent and impressed at the recent World championships, going far enough to secure a silver medal.

81kgs: Ben Whittaker (England)
England has more established names, the McCormack twins for instance or Liverpool’s Peter McGrail are better known and more seasoned medal-winners. But often a less heralded GB boxer comes to the fore at an Olympic Games, think of Joshua Buatsi at Rio 2016 or even James DeGale at Beijing 2008. Whittaker has slick skills, can certainly do well in Tokyo and is the right age, only 22, to set himself up for a very bright future.

91kgs: David Nyika (New Zealand)
The New Zealander is a fine boxer and can turn on the power too. He has though had no luck. The two-weight Commonwealth Games gold medallist ran up against the Russian in Russia at the last World championships. He hasn’t got a major medal yet but in 2020 he could come through.

91&kgs: Bakhodir Jalolov (Uzbekistan)
Another quality Uzbek, super-heavyweight Bakhodir Jalolov, like Zoirov (above), has taken advantage of the new ruling that allows national federations to select professional boxers. Jalolov has dabbled in pro boxing and made headlines when he knocked the USA’s Richard Torrez cold. He was callow at the last Olympics but has matured into a force in the division now.

World championships Lauren Price
Lauren Price is a must-watch boxer ahead of Tokyo 2020 GB Boxing

Female: 51kgs: Mary Kom (India)
India’s Mary Kom is one of the remaining superstars of women’s boxing. Nicola Adams has now retired, Katie Taylor is a unified professional world champion. Kom, an icon in her homeland, however is working to see if she has one last Olympics left in her. Although she holds a record-breaking number of World gold medals, it will be tough for her to excel outside of her natural weight. Her progress through the qualification events early in 2020 will be fascinating to watch.

57kgs: Kariss Artingstall (England)
This division is a new category being introduced into the next Olympic Games. There is all to play for in the weight class. This time a year ago Karriss Artingstall was not on the radar, but after a sequence of stellar performances she is very much a contender at 57kgs. Clean straight punching and real power for her weight mark her out.

60kgs: Mira Potkonen (Finland)
Former professional world champion Delfine Persoon is expected to attempt to qualify for the Olympics. If she can make lightweight over the long course of an amateur tournament, there are still no guarantees that she’ll enjoy success. Tough veterans like Mira Potkonen, who eliminated Katie Taylor at the last Olympics, will prove formidable.

69kgs: Oshae Jones (USA)
America had a quality team at Rio 2016, Claressa Shields and Shakur Stevenson the stars then. Now the US does not have any returning Olympians. New contenders will have to come through as their squad takes shape at the recent trials (more here). Oshae Jones, the PanAmerican Games gold medallist could be one of their boxers to break through.

75kgs: Lauren Price (Wales)
There is only one way for Lauren Price to top her outstanding 2019, and that’s winning an Olympic gold medal this year. In 2019 she did the double, winning gold at the European Games and World championships. It, almost, doesn’t get better than that. But she will need to maintain her form in the coming months and be ready once again for bitter rival Nouchka Fontijn.

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