Lead by their highly respected head coach Nikolay Khromov, the Russian boxing team has been preparing hard for the London 2012 Olympic Games. As one of the world's leading nations in the sport, they are aiming to collect at least five medals from their promising ten-strong squad.
Misha Aloian, the 24-year-old from Armenian-descent, who took the Flyweight gold at the AIBA World Boxing Championships Baku 2011, following his success at the European Championships in Moscow, will be the man to beat at the Olympic Games. In the Azeri capital, he triumphed over his main rivals with amongst them the USA's Raushee Warren and Welshmen Andrew Selby. Aloian has been involved with the national elite squad since after the Beijing Games so with London being his first taste of the Olympic Games, expect the tactically astute orthodox fighter to really make his mark.
Russian team captain David Ayrapetyan claimed a valuable bronze medal at the AIBA World Boxing Championships Baku 2011 and qualified to have a second crack at honours at the Olympic Games, after losing in his first preliminary contest in Beijing to Ukraine's Georgiy Chygayev. The Light Flyweight No.1 will be looking to bring Shiming Zou's dominance of the division to an end this summer.
The team's Light Heavyweight boxer will be veteran Egor Mekhontcev, an AIBA World Champion in 2009 and a bronze medallist two years later in Baku, who also achieved two European Championship titles in this Olympic era. An impressive CV already, the 27-year-old has been in fine form of late and will be battling it out with Cuba's Julio Cesar De La Cruz and several other quality fighters, including Algerian icon Abdelhafid Benchabla, for ultimate glory.
Bantamweight Sergey Vodopiyanov, 25, who was the AIBA World Champion in Chicago in 2007 before taking the silver medal two years later in Italy, losing to the mighty Vasyl Lomachenko. He knows he has some serious rivals to contend with in London but with some quality wins under his belt this year, his confidence will be high when he takes to the ring at the ExCeL London when the action begins on 28 July.
Top welterweight Andrey Zamkovoy will be once again leading the charges for his country in the 69kg category. Unlucky to lose in the quarter-finals of the AIBA World Boxing Championships Baku 2011 against eventual winner Taras Shelestyuk, the 25-year-old has a point to prove and will be gunning to all the way in what promises to be an extremely tight competition. Zamkovoy has the skills and the attitude to challenge for medals.
One of the toughest boxers in the squad is 27-year-old Heavyweight Artur Beterbiev, known as a knock-out specialist with a thunderous right hook. He won the title at the AIBA World Boxing Championships Milan 2009 and was also crowned at the Moscow's European Championships two years ago, both times at Light Heavyweight. In his new category, Beterbiev will have to match or better the performances of some stellar names that include Italy's Clemente Russo and reigning AIBA World Champion Oleksandr Usyk.
Magomed Omarov, 23, the youngest team member in this Olympic boxing squad, is the man looking to make a big impact at Super Heavyweight. The rising star won the European Championships in Ankara last year by beating Italian icon and double Olympic gold medallist Roberto Cammarelle in the final. Omarov then qualified for the London 2012 Olympic Games by being victorious at the 2012 AIBA European Olympic Qualifying Event in Trabzon, Turkey. Even though there are some frightening names in the King's division, including Medzhidov, Joshua and Savon, the young Russian could be one of the revelations of the summer.
The 7th edition of the AIBA Women's World Boxing Championships in Qinhuangdao, China, saw Russia ensure representatives qualified in all three Olympic weight categories. With each having previously won a World Title, there are high hopes for the Russian women to really make names for themselves in London with all having a realistic chance of taking gold.
Two-time AIBA World Champion Sofya Ochigava will be Lightweight favourite Katie Taylor from Ireland's main threat at these Olympic Games while current European Champions Elena Savelyeva and veteran Nadezda Torlopova will want to challenge for honours at Fly and Middleweight respectively.
With all that talent in their squad, there are not only big chances that Russia will have boxers on the podium but many expect that this boxing powerhouse could find itself top in the team rankings. Watch this space.
Copyright © 2012 AIBA http://www.aiba.org