The world’s best boxers are poised to show off their skills at the Doha 2015 AIBA World Boxing Championships in Qatar, with not just medals, but the promise of qualification places for the Rio 2016 Olympics up for grabs.
Having arrived through the confederation championships held across the globe in recent weeks, the considerable pool of boxing talent will descend on Doha for the opening ceremony and draw on 6 October. Here are some of the names to look out for.
Joselito Velasquez, Mexico (49 kg)
Mexico’s number one boxer, Joselito Velasquez claimed the Panamerican Games gold both in Guadalajara and Toronto, and the 22-year-old was in top form during the recent WSB and AOB events.
“It was a very complicated tournament in Vargas, Venezuela, to qualify for Doha. The quality of opponents and the importance of the event meant I trained five hours a day, seven days a week for the opportunity to get to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. As always in such preparations we have to raise our physical condition, and I worked on my strong jab. Every opponent in Doha could be a tough one, but I feel I will be strong enough”, said the Mexican number one.
Mohamed Flissi, Algeria (52 kg)
Algeria’s London 2012 Olympian Mohamed Flissi won silver two years ago at the last AIBA World Boxing Championships in Almaty, scoring Africa’s first medal in the event since 2005.
Flissi moved up to the flyweight class last year, and following a strong WSB performance, he has proven his ability at AIBA Pro Boxing just as impressively.
“As a team we are fully motivated following two good tournaments, first in the AFBC African Confederation Boxing Championships and then at the All Africa Games in Brazzaville. I want to perform well in Doha and repeat my Almaty result. I have done a lot of individual work with my coaching staff to improve and try to eliminate any flaws. I feel good within the group, I’m well prepared, and feel ready to box no matter who my opponent,” said the Algerian star.
Vitaliy Dunaytsev, Russia (64 kg)
Russian 23-year-old Vitaliy Dunaytsev achieved success at schoolboy, junior and youth levels, but it took three years among boxing’s elite before he reached the top of the world.
Dunaytsev won gold at the EUBC European Confederation Boxing Championships in Samokov, Bulgaria, following two national titles and strong WSB performances, making him a firm favourite for the light welterweight title in Doha.
“I worked to my limits during the preparations, so I hope for the best in Doha. Boxing is the most important thing in my life after my family. We have been training with the Russian team and the schedule is tough, but the plan is to change my sparring partners every day to be better prepared to face any opponent in Doha. Most of the competitors there will be Confederations’ Champions, WSB and APB boxers, so I need to be at my best,” said the Russian favourite Dunaytsev.
Wuttichai Masuk, Thailand (64 kg)
Wuttichai Masuk has some of the best footwork in his weight class, and his dancing style echoes that of the Cuban greats. Thailand’s top boxer was a gold medallist at the 2009 ASBC Asian Confederation Boxing Championships in Zhuhai at the age of 19, before falling out of the spotlight for a few years.
After working hard on raising the intensity of his boxing in training, he became a gold medallist at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games before going on to win the ASBC Asian Confederation Boxing Championships on home soil in Bangkok.
“Competing at home was a big motivation for me and I managed to repeat what I had achieved last year in Incheon. We had a great training plan with my coach Mr. Omar Malagon and I feel in the best shape of my career. I trained 20 hours a week for the AIBA World Boxing Championships with my sparring partners Saylom Ardee and Anavat Thongkrathok, and although there have been some changes in the team, I know that together we can achieve top results in Doha,” said Matsuk, Thailand’s main gold medal contender and a serious challenge to Dunaytsev’s chances.
Eimantas Stanionis, Lithuania (69 kg)
Lithuania’s Eimantas Stanionis delivered some strong AIBA Pro performances, despite being one of the youngest competitors. The Lithuanian welterweight celebrated his 21st birthday with victory in the EUBC European Confederation Boxing Championships in Samokov.
“I trained about 20 hours a week with no let up after my win in Samokov. I tried to work on a few new combinations but nothing special. I had a good training camp in Russia and worked with very good sparring partners as usual. At times I feel great, but the long season gets tiring, though I know that without hard work you won’t get the special results against top opponents. My motivation is to become the world champion, but I know that, after qualification, every opponent is ready and determined to win the gold medal in Doha,” said Stanionis.
Josh Kelly, Great Britain (69 kg)
Great Britain’s 21-year-old Josh Kelly was a bronze medallist in the 2012 AIBA Youth World Boxing Championships in Yerevan, and repeated that performance at the Baku 2015 European Games.
The rising Houghton and District ABC star is a lesser-known tip for the welterweight title, though he can expect a tough time in Doha.
“A couple of years ago I was watching people go off to the European Championships and pick up medals, before heading to the AIBA World Boxing Championships and the London 2012 Olympic Games. Now I am in that position myself, and booking my place at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games is the main aim. I trained 5-6 days a week three times a day and I have had many sparring partners and attended so many camps around the world in preparation that I’m feeling sharp and ready to get the job done. I’ve never trained as hard for a competition, so I know I’m fully prepared. The rest is in the hands of the judges and myself. I’ve got no main rivals in Doha, I see everyone as a threat and will box every fight as if it was the final. I like to enjoy myself in the ring and keep a smile on my face so I guarantee I’ll be doing my thing and hopefully winning,” said the promising young Brit.
Vasiliy Levit, Kazakhstan (91 kg)
Kazakhstan’s Vasiliy Levit won the gold medal at the 2009 ASBC Asian Confederation Boxing Championships in Zhuhai, China, but having failed to qualify for London 2012, he turned his focus to the World Series of Boxing (WSB).
The 27-year-old Kazakh boxer won each of his contests in Season V of WSB, and following his gold medal at the ASBC Asian Confederation Boxing Championships in Bangkok, he feels ready to win another big event.
“I am planning to show my strength from the first seconds, so my preparation was based on a lot of conditional sessions. I was training 25-30 hours a week to prepare for the Doha 2015 AIBA World Boxing Championships. Coming from the World Series of Boxing I had to raise my speed and we have got some new tactical elements as well. The key to my preparations was sparring with strong rivals at home,” said Levit, who has already secured his place as a Rio 2016 Olympian.