Since the AIBA World Boxing Championships Baku 2011, where their boxers took home four gold medals in spectacular style, the Ukraine have been instilled as the favourite to top the medal ranking at the London 2012 Olympic Games. With reigning Olympic Champion and Lightweight (60kg) king Vasyl Lomachenko, AIBA Welterweight (69kg) World Champion Taras Shelestyuk, the World No.1 ranked Middleweight (75kg) Ievgen Khytrov and supreme Heavyweight (91kg) Oleksandr Usyk in their ranks; it is not hard to see why.
For the last few weeks, the Ukrainian men's elite boxing team has been preparing for the London 2012 Olympic Games at an intensive national training camp where their head coach Dmitro Sosnovskiy has been on a mission to ensure a repeat of the performances at the AIBA World Boxing Championships Baku 2011. Following their dominancy in the Azeri capital, the Ukrainian boxers are now the ones to beat in London.
It will be tough to better the results of last year however with an exceptionally strong team that also includes the AIBA European Olympic Qualifying Event Bantamweight (56kg) title winner Pavlo Ischenko, AIBA World Boxing Championships silver medallist Denys Berinchyk and the World Series of Boxing Light Heavyweight (81kg) revelation of 2012 Oleksandr Gvozdyk, but these boxers have the quality to make a big impact in the British capital. The nation as a whole expects the Ukrainian boxers to lead the charges for medals, with the aim to top their performance in Beijing where the country took home 27 medals, including seven golds, across all Olympic disciplines.
An independent Ukraine's first Olympic boxing gold medal came at the 1996 Atlanta Games when legendary Super Heavyweight (+91kg) boxer Wladimir Klitchko triumphed over Tonga's Paea Wolfgramm in the final. The nation then had to wait twelve years for their second title as the powerful and now two-time AIBA World Champion Vasyl Lomachenko announced his arrival on the world stage by taking the Featherweight (57kg) Olympic gold medal in Beijing. The tough 24-year-old southpaw from Odessa is now the clear favourite for the Lightweight (60kg) title in London after remaining unbeaten in this Olympic era. Lomachenko though is not the only one with gold medal aspirations.
Experienced Multiple-National Champion Taras Shelestyuk was in great shape last year as the 27-year-old boxer took home the Welterweight (69kg) gold from Baku and now he will look to repeat that feat in the British capital by claiming the Olympic title. His biggest threat for supremacy will come from Kazakhstan's double AIBA World Champion Serik Sapiyev who has gone up a level since his defeat in the final at the AIBA World Boxing Championships Baku 2011.
Middleweight (75kg) star Ievgen Khytrov was in blistering form in the Azeri capital where he took the gold medal. In the final, the 23-year-old threw over a hundred of punches against Japan's Ryota Murata to prevail 24:22. His explosive style ensured one of the most spectacular contests of the whole tournament and there are high hopes that he will entertain once more at the London 2012 Olympic Games. He is the one of the front runners for the title at the XXX Olympiad but he will have to be wary of the threat of several accomplished fighters in this category, including Azerbaijan's Soltan Migitinov, Great Britain's Anthony Ogogo, Irishman Darren O'Neill, Terrel Gausha from the USA and double AIBA World Champion Uzbekistan's Abbos Atoev.
Oleksandr Usyk won gold in Baku and will now be participating at the Olympic Games for a second time. His first experience in Beijing ended prematurely after defeat to eventual silver medallist Clemente Russo of Italy but this year the 25-year-old 191cm tall, 6ft3in, Ukrainian is the firm favourite to prize the Heavyweight (91kg) title. His main rivals with be rising Azerbaijan star Teymur Mammadov and Russia's Artur Beterbiev who are both in great form.
University World Champion Denys Berinchyk caused a huge upset in the first preliminary round of the AIBA World Championships Baku 2011 when he eliminated Cuban titleholder Roniel Iglesias before going on the claim the silver medal. He will now want to end top of the Light Welterweight (64kg) podium in London but for that he will have to beat the reigning AIBA World Champion from Brazil Everton Dos Santos Lopes, eliminate the threat posed by Great Britain's Thomas Lee Stalker and get the better of all the other athletes in that extremely competitive category.
Ukraine's secret weapon in London will be Oleksandr Gvozdyk, who is one of the best boxers in the Light Heavyweight (81kg) category and has won gold medals at various international tournaments but has yet to record a real success in a major event. After a sensational season with Dynamo Moscow in the World Series of Boxing in which he defeated Algeria's Abdelhafid Benchabla, watch out for this elegant 25-year-old to come to the fore in London. The youngest member of the team will be 20-year-old Pavlo Ishchenko, a European Junior Champion four years ago, who joined up with the squad after taking gold at the AIBA European Olympic Qualifying Event Trabzon 2012.
With so much quality in their seven-strong team, expect the Ukrainians to light up the boxing event at the ExCeL during the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Copyright © 2012 AIBA http://www.aiba.org