Tokyo 2020 Preview: Boxers aim to go the distance in pursuit of gold

Australia's boxers will be looking to punch their ticket to Olympic glory in Tokyo later this month - Photo: @AusOlympicTeam on Twitter

Olympic boxing has long been the breeding ground of future stars in the sport as fighters make the transition from the amateur ranks to professional. The competition for Tokyo 2020 will be no exception. Stay tuned to The Inner Sanctum’s Olympic hub and the Olympics Central for all your Olympic coverage.

On many occasions, glory at the Games has been the starting point on the road to legend and icon status.

While there have been countless examples of this over the storied history of Olympic boxing – Ali, Leonard, De La Hoya – the most famous example in the past fifteen years has been Ukraine’s Vasyl Lomachenko.

After claiming gold at Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012, he transitioned to professional boxing with an amateur record of 396 wins and 1 loss. In his 15 fights as a professional, he has won World titles in three weight classes.

From the last Olympic Games in Rio 2016, America’s gold medallist, Claressa Shields has established herself as one of the greatest female boxers in the history of the sport. Much like the aforementioned Lomachenko, she is a three weight World champion.

Fellow country man and bronze winner in Rio, Shakur Stevenson also made this transition when he captured the WBO World Featherweight title at just 21 years of age.

Australia has been no stranger to producing World champions out of Olympic representatives. While Jeff Fenech (1984) has been the most decorated of these fighters, others to have claimed World championship gold include Robbie Peden (1992 and 1996), Daniel Geale (2000) and most recently Jeff Horn (2012).

Surprisingly, the country has never produced a gold medallist at a Games. In fact, it has been over 30 years since Australia has won a medal. The last to do so was Grahame “Spike” Cheney who claimed silver at Seoul in 1988.  

The squad that will don the green and gold in 2021 will be hoping to seriously change these fortunes when they grace the hallowed canvas in Tokyo.

Competition Structure

There are 13 weight divisions (eight male, five female) in competition at the 2020 Tokyo games.

Male:

DivisionWeight Limit (Kilograms)
Flyweight52
Featherweight57
Lightweight63
Welterweight69
Middleweight75
Light Heavyweight81
Heavyweight91
Super HeavyweightUnlimited

Female:

DivisionWeight Limit (Kilograms)
Flyweight51
Featherweight57
Lightweight60
Welterweight69
Middleweight75

Each division will start with a round of 32 and ends with two boxers through a head to head elimination tournament format. Bouts of three rounds lasting three minutes each are scored by five judges sitting ringside.

Rounds are scored on a “10 point-must system”, where the adjudicated winner is awarded 10 points and the loser between nine and six.

Points are awarded based on punches landed to the head and mid-section, technique, bout domination and competitiveness. Should there be a wide disparity between fighters in this category, a lower score is awarded to the loser.

Further deductions may be made for rule infringements, such as blows below the belt line and excessive holding.

Where it is agreed by all judges that a particular fighter has won a fight, a unanimous decision is awarded. Should there be varied scores, the fighter judged the winner on a majority of cards is ruled the victor by split decision.

A fighter may also win by knockout if their opponent falls to the canvas and unable to return to their feet before a referee count of 10. Should they be knocked unconscious, the bout is immediately ended and the puncher declared the winner.

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The Australian Squad

In all, Australia will have fighters competing in five of the 13 weight classes in Tokyo.

The size of the team has been reduced in recent weeks following the withdrawal of gold-medal favourite and Super Heavyweight, Justis Huni.

A pair of hand injuries sustained during his blossoming professional career forced the 22-year-old to give away his childhood dreams of Olympic gold. As devastating as this news may be, it has led to a renewed focus on the remainder of the squad.

Tipping the opposite end of the scales is Flyweight Alex Winwood.

After missing out on qualification for the 2016 Rio games, the proud Noongar fighter won a closely contested final qualification bout against Omid Ahmadi Safa of Iran at the 2020 Asia and Oceania Olympic qualification tournament.

From the same tournament, silver medalists Paulo Aokuso (Light Heavyweight) and Caitlin Parker (Middleweight), and bronze medallist Skye Nicolson (Featherweight) each secured Olympic qualification with their top four finish.

Rounding out the squad is Lightweight Harry Garside, the only team member who did not qualify through the Asia and Oceania tournament. Despite entering as the number two seed, the 2018 Commonwealth games gold medallist had to settle for allocation of a spot through World ranking quotas.  

Dates of Competition

Boxing at the Tokyo 2020 games starts on July 24 and will conclude on August 8.

Nicolson will be the first Australian in action when the Women’s Featherweight round of 32 kicks of on the opening day.

Parker, Aokuso and Garside will all enter the ring the following day when their brackets commence, while Alex Winwood will have to wait until July 26 to compete.

Who Else To Look Out For

From displays of incredible skills to those literally fighting for the chance to change their lives, there will be a range of stories worth keeping an eye on in Tokyo.

Team Uzbekistan

Competing in 11 of the 13 weight classes, Uzbekistan’s team will have high expectations of bringing home numerous medals. Flyweight Shakhobidin Zoirov is no stranger to gold, entering Tokyo as the reigning Olympic gold medallist, World and Asian champion.

In addition to Zoirov, Mirazizbek Mirzakhalilov (Featherweight), Bobo-Usmon Baturov (Welterweight), Dilshodbek Ruzmetov (Light Heavyweight) and Bakhodir Jalolov (Super Heavyweight) will all be out to add to their 2019 World Championship medal placements.

The Asian nation is without doubt a powerhouse in Olympic boxing.

The Entire Lightweight Division

In what may be the division stacked with the most talent at the games, Lightweight promises to provide fireworks for on-lookers.

On any given day, the top four from the World Championships in 2019, Andy Cruz (Cuba), Keyshawn Davis (USA), Manish Kaushik (India) and Hovhannes Bachkov (Armenia) could all bring home Olympic gold this year.

An Irishman’s Lifelong Journey

A dream of 20 plus years came true for Irish Light Heavyweight Emmet Brennan.

At last year’s European qualifiers, the 30 year old won a final qualification bout against Liridon Nuha from Sweden, taking all five scorecards to secure his place at the games.

He is just one of many feel good stories to come out of this year’s qualifiers.

Nicolson Family Legacy

An emotional moment took place when 2018 Commonwealth games gold medallist Skye Nicolson was announced as a member of the Australian side.

Her late brother Jamie represented Australia at the 1990 Commonwealth and 1992 Olympic games before his tragic death in 1994. 27 years later, the younger sibling will be driven to bring home a medal to honour her family’s contribution to the sport.

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About Liahm O'Brien 54 Articles
Liahm is a features writer based in Burnie, Tasmania. His writing focuses on the human side of combat sports, painting a full picture of the athletes we see from the stands or on our tv screens. In 2017, he was published in The Footy Almanac.

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