Moroccan boxing has grown and strengthened over the years and this became obvious at the qualification event of the last Olympic Games, where ten of the eleven possible places were attained by the North African country. Following this, the number of registered boxers in the country increased dramatically and the quality of the national team is now even stronger than in the last Olympic era.
Top-notch Moroccan athletes claimed four silver medals at the African Men's Elite Championships in Yaoundé, Cameroon. Consequently, Morocco will be host to the upcoming African Olympic Qualification Tournament, where their main target is to reach the maximum number of quotas for London.
The strongest Moroccan boxer and the biggest hope for 2012 is the Beijing Olympic Games quarter-finalist and tough WSB fighter, Mohamed Arjaoui, who moved up into the super heavyweight class last year. The 24-year-old Arab Games winner just missed out on the quota at the AIBA World Boxing Championships in Baku last year, despite defeating Russia's European Champion, Sergey Kuzmin.
The former AIBA Junior World Champion and Beijing Olympian, Mehdi Ouatine, achieved tremendous results in the last Olympics but unfortunately did not come out punching the skies nor did he become the bookies' favourite. Now, his toughest compatriot opponent is Hamza El-Barbari, but it is more than likely that the experienced Ouatine will nonetheless get the green light to represent Morocco in the major events in 2012.
2012 also sees two veteran competitors returning to the ring. They will be fighting for a spot on the Moroccan national team in the bantamweight class. Aboubaker Seddik Lbida and three-time Olympian, Hicham Mesbahi, both have more than ten years experience in international competitions. Should Mesbahi be selected to represent Morocco in the African Olympic Qualification Tournament, he will have the chance to compete in his fourth Olympic Games, thereby breaking a record in the history of Morocco's boxing life.
AIBA Junior World Championship bronze medallist, Driss Moussaid, proudly represented Morocco in Beijing but now faces a formidable rival in the light welterweight class. The Arab Games winner and World Military Games silver medallist, Abdelhak Aatakni, lived his career highlight in 2011. Both boxers being on top form, with an impressive record certainly does not facilitate the decision as to who will be Top Dog this time.
African Championship silver medallist, 21-year-old Abdelali Daraa, joined the national team in 2010 and graciously claimed a bronze medal at the Bocskai Memorial Tournament in the first major international competition of his career. The young athlete from the Ain Sebaa boxing club hopes to realise his Olympic dreams in May this year.
Morocco's flyweight No.1 is current Arab Champion, 18-year-old Yassine Lakhal, who joined the elite level only this year. Their top welterweight boxer is Beijing Olympian, 26-year-old Mehdi Khalsi, who is preparing for his second Olympics. After a two year struggle finding his place, African Championship silver medallist, Badreddine Haddioui has finally settled for the middleweight division.
Former African Champion, veteran Ahmed Barki, who recently returned to the world of boxing, will be fighting Amine Azzouzi for a place on the Moroccan squad in the light heavyweight division. Morocco found its best bet in the heavyweight class in Abdelouhed Bendaghor. Bendaghor made his international debut at the Bocskai Memorial Tournament in Hungary, where he showed some promising talent and a flair for fighting.
The Moroccan women boxers are a team of really tough fighters. They began the year well in In Sombor, Serbia, where their finest athletes acquired not one but three gold medals; the experienced Zohra Ez-Zahraoui in the bantamweight, newcomer Awatif Bahouane in the featherweight and Hasnaa Lachgar in the lightweight division. It is a promising time for Morocco, with some familiar faces and a fresh influx of bright, young talent. 2012 is sure to bring good things to the developing boxing nation, and it will be a sight for sore eyes.
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