THE rescheduled Asia and Oceania Olympic qualification event will begin in Amman, Jordan on March 3, finishing on March 11.
This event will be ferociously competitive. The ever excellent Kazakh team has often dominated Asian continental events. Cast your eye over many of the weight classes and boxers from Kazakhstan are among the best in the world. Their squad has a couple of world class middleweights, in Abilkhan Amankul and Tursynbay Kulakhmet, and in Boxing News’ estimation Bekzad Nurdauletov is the leader in the light-heavyweight division. Zakir Saffiullin is a hardened warrior, good to watch, who might be refreshed by his division expanding to 63kgs.
Kazakh boxers typically combine speed, strength and ringcraft. But the Uzbek team, as well being monstrously strong more often than not, are also made up of clever boxers. Look out for Bakhodir Jalolov, an imposing force super-heavyweight. He like, some of his compatriots, have had a handful of professional bouts. While they’ve dipped into the pro side of the sport, they can return to Olympic style boxing if selected by their national federation.
This was a new rule introduced for the last Olympics but it remains controversial. There is a school of thought that Olympic boxing should be the pinnacle of its sport. Why not bring it into line with other Olympic sports and open it up to any athlete who’s good enough to compete? Equally some think it’s only fair to keep the traditional system and let the younger generation have the chance at Olympic glory before moving on to turn professional afterwards.
In my view three-round bouts day after day over the course of whole tournament does not equate to a 12 round professional bout. They are different types of event and a seasoned pro would struggle against a specialist Olympic boxer. In fact boxers like the ones who make up the Uzbek team, who have had a few professional bouts, over a shorter number of rounds and are not yet at championship level, are probably the ones better suited to crossing back over.
Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are of course not the only show in town when it comes to this event. China have a good squad of boxers, particularly in their women’s team with Wang Cong and Yang Liu set to be contenders at 60kgs and 69kgs respectively.
The Philippines have some exciting talents in their ranks. Their Nesthy Petecio is the reigning featherweight World champion, while men’s middleweight Eumir Marcial is a powerhouse to be reckoned with.
New Zealand heavyweight David Nyika will also have something to say in the 91kgs category.
The top six boxers at men’s 52kgs, 57kgs and 63kgs and women’s 51kgs will all win places at Tokyo 2020. The semi-finalists at women’s 57kgs, 60kgs, 69kgs and 75kgs and men’s 91kgs and 91&kgs will claim their spots at the next Olympic Games. There are five places at Tokyo up for grabs in the men’s welter, middle and light-heavyweight categories.