Matt Bozeat examines each weight class and picks his favourites for gold in the men’s code
SUPER-HEAVYWEIGHT (92kgs +)
ENGLAND has struck super-heavyweight gold at five of the last six Commonwealth Games and Delicious Orie carries their hopes in Birmingham.
The 25-year-old has been boxing’s poster boy for the Games. An articulate 6ft 6ins tall athlete with an Economics degree, he has grown in confidence in the ring over the last few months, winning bronze at May’s European Championships.
Indian southpaw Sagar Ahlawat looks a handful. The 21-year-old southpaw came from nowhere to qualify through the Indian trials with wins over Satish Kumar, who reached the last eight of the Tokyo Olympics, and Indian champion Narender Berwal.
Trinidad and Tobago veteran Nigel Paul won World Championship bronze last year and chunky Keddy Agnes was also there, representing Seychelles. Birmingham will be Agnes’ third Commonwealths, last time he won bronze. Maxime Yegnono Njieyo represented Cameroon at last year’s Olympics.
The super-heavyweights were added to the Commonwealth Games in 1986 and Lennox Lewis won gold for Canada. Thirty-six years on, the colourful Jerome Feujio, fond of wearing a cowboy hat and dancing to the ring, represents Canada in Birmingham. He looks strong and has a win over Northern Ireland’s representative, Damien Sullivan, at the Eindhoven Box Cup in June, and a stoppage of Saint Lucia novice Learn Regis.
BN PICK: DELICIOUS ORIE
HEAVYWEIGHT – 92kgs
THE withdrawal of New Zealander David Nyika through injury leaves nine heavyweights going for gold.
Lewis Williams is England’s representative, a slick 6ft 6ins boxer from Cleary’s ABC in Leamington. The 23-year-old has to have a good chance of a medal following bronze at the European Championships.
His run to the quarter-finals of last year’s World Championships was matched by Sanjeet Kumar (India) in 2019. The 25-year-old had a huge win in the final of last year’s Asian Championships, outpointing Vassiliy Levit, 2016 Olympic silver medallist. Kumar beat the Kazakh by being hard to hit and pecking away with jabs.
Only two Indians have ever won heavyweight medals at the Commonwealth Games and Kumar says the lack of big men in his country benefits him. He spars smaller opponents and because of that he believes heavyweights can’t match him for speed.
Samoan southpaw Ato Plodzicki-Faoagali, beaten in the light-heavyweight final four years ago, is up at 92kgs, where he boxed in last year’s Olympics. The 23-year-old is only 6ft 1ins tall.
BN PICK: LEWIS WILLIAMS
LIGHT-HEAVYWEIGHTS – 80kgs
SCOTLAND won light-heavyweight gold in 2006 (Kenny Anderson) and 2010 (Callum Johnson) and Sean Lazzerini represents them in Birmingham. The 25-year-old made a last-16 exit on the Gold Coast four years ago.
Aaron Bowen wants to meet Lazzerini in an England-Scotland final that he fancies would be the fight of the Games given both are front-foot fighters.
Taylor Bevan must have a good chance of getting a medal. Born in Winchester and raised in Southampton, Bevan qualifies for Wales through his mother and had a win over Bowen at the Tammer Tournament in January.
Ismayl Sillakh, the 37-year-old veteran pro who qualifies for Sierra Leone through his father, is also entered, along with last year’s Olympians Shakul Samed (Ghana) and Ashish Kumar.
Kumar made an early exit at 75kgs in Tokyo and has since moved up, winning Thailand Open silver earlier this year at 80kgs.
BN PICK: SEAN LAZZERINI
MIDDLEWEIGHTS – 75kgs
FAVOURITES have to include Lewis Richardson (England) and Indian teenager Sumit Kundu. Kundu caused a huge shock at the Strandja tournament in Bulgaria in February by outworking world silver medallist Dizhambulat Bizhamov in his opening bout.
Kundu got his hands up, chin down and slung clusters of looping hooks to body, setting a pace the Russian couldn’t match.
Richardson is 6ft 2ins tall southpaw with fast hands and feet who won silver at the European Championships in May.
In the last four, he beat Scotland’s Sam Hickey and he will also be in Birmingham, along with Billy Le Poullain (Guernsey), who impressed when winning the Haringey Box Cup in June.
Le Poullain made an early exit on the Gold Coast four years ago.
PICK: SUMIT KUNDU
LIGHT-MIDDLEWEIGHT – 71kgs
EUROPEAN champion Harris Akbar and Aidan Walsh, bronze medallist in Tokyo last year and silver medallist at the last Commonwealth Games, will be fancied to win medals.
Akbar (England) had a win over the Northern Irishman when they were Juniors and, more recently, he had a win over Wales’ representative, Garan Croft. That was in the final of the European Championship earlier this year.
The Welshman found Akbar hard to hit and accurate with his own long punches, as has been the case in 145 of his 165 bouts. Akbar won unanimously and heads to Birmingham believing he’s the best on the planet having outpointed world champion Yurii Zakharieiev in the last four in Armenia.
Stephen Newns (Scotland), whose father was born and raised in Salford, reached the last eight on the Gold Coast and reckons he’s much improved since then, while New Zealander Wendell Stanley is a 6ft 2ins tall volume puncher.
Jessie Lartey (Ghana) appears in his fourth Commonwealth Games. He got a bronze four years ago at 64kgs.
PICK: HARRIS AKBAR
WELTERWEIGHT – 67kgs
IOAN CROFT, the younger of the boxing twins by around a minute, is looking to become the first Welshman to win a medal at welterweight since Anthony Freal in 1978.
The 20-year-old southpaw has this year won medals at the European under-22 (silver) and European (bronze) championships. Last year he defeated Scotland’s Tyler Jolly at the Socikas International Tournament in Lithuania.
Jolly, added to the Great Britain Podium squad in July, won Commonwealth Youth Games gold in the Bahamas in 2017.
2020 Olympians Jean Marie Onana Ngah (Ghana) and Stephen Zimba (Zambia) carry power, the latter ironing out world no.10 Merven Clair (Mauritius) with a whipping right hand in the African qualifiers.
BN PICK: IOAN CROFT
LIGHT-WELTERWEIGHT – 63.5kgs
JONAS JUNIAS JONAS is looking to make it back-to-back golds. The long and slippery Namibian also reached the 2014 final, losing to Josh Taylor.
Charlie Kane (1990) is another Scot who’s struck light-welterweight gold for Scotland and Reese Lynch fancies he can emulate them. The 21-year-old southpaw won World Championship bronze last year and followed that by reaching the last eight of the European Championships.
He has sparred Billy Polkinghorn (Australia) and England’s Joe Tyers, who will also be in Birmingham.
Tyers has competed at the European under-22 and European Championships this year and the 21-year-old says he takes confidence from his loss to Olympic bronze medallist Hovhannes Bachkov at the latter.
“I gave him the best fight of the tournament,” said Tyers, who boxes for Billingham ABC in the North East.
India’s quick-fisted Shiva Thapa has a wealth of international experience. Thapa has boxed in two Olympics – he was only 18 when he boxed in London a decade ago – and this will be his second Commonwealth Games after he lost to Michael Conlan in Glasgow.
Ugandan captain Joshua Tukauhebwa is a spindly southpaw who built a reputation as a knockout specialist when qualifying through the Uganda Boxing Champions League and 2020 Olympian Ryan Alston represents Antigua and boxes for Repton ABC.
BN PICK: REESE LYNCH
FEATHERWEIGHT – 57kgs
THERE are 23 entries including Kenyan veteran Nicholas “Commander” Okoth. Now 39 years old, Okoth competed at the 2008 and 2020 Olympics and Birmingham will be his third Commonwealth Games. His best performance so far is a run to the last eight in Glasgow in 2014.
Niall Farrell (England) has a CV as impressive as anyone at 57kgs – including European silver in 2017 – and boxing at home is likely to inspire him.
Australian rep Charlie Senior will have support from Bradford. The 21-year-old emigrated from Yorkshire when he was two years old and says he still has “grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins” in Yorkshire.
Northern Ireland’s Jude Gallagher was a quality youth, winning European and World bronze in 2018, while Anthony Joseph represented Trinidad and Tobago at last year’s World Championship.
Alex Mukuka (New Zealand) looks like a puncher and Amzolele Dyei is a 20-year-old South African who will have learned from sparring sublime professional Zolani Tete before he came to London earlier this month to defeat Jason Cunningham.
PICK: NIALL FARRELL
BANTAMWEIGHTS – 54kgs
BARRY McGUIGAN was only 18 years old when he won bantamweight gold in Canada in 1978 and there’s a teenager from Northern Ireland who has a chance of emulating him in Birmingham.
St Paul’s teenager Dylan Eagleson, a long left-hander with a relaxed style and impressive shot selection, scalped three Olympians on his way to silver at the European Championships in Armenia in May. He had a win over Matthew McHale in a Northern Ireland-Scotland match in February. That was Eagleson’s first senior bout and he won unanimously in Belfast.
For McHale, from the same club (Lochend ABC) as Josh Taylor, the Commonwealth Games has been his target since he narrowly missed out on going to the Gold Coast four years ago.
Abraham Mensah was another who missed out on going to the Gold Coast. He was considered too young, but heads to Birmingham regarded as one of Ghana’s best hopes for a medal.
Jabaci Breedy last year became the first Barbadian to reach the last eight of the World Championships for two decades and Kenya’s Shaffi Bakari Hassan is a seasoned international appearing in his second Commonwealth Games.
PICK: DYLAN EAGLESON
FLYWEIGHT – 52kgs
THERE are four Tokyo Olympians going for flyweight gold, including former world No.1 Amir Panghal.
The Indian southpaw headed to Japan with the top ranking and suffered huge disappointment there, losing his opening contest to Colombian veteran Yuberjen Martinez, who went on to win silver. The 26-year-old has silvers from the 2019 World Championship and 2018 Commonwealth Games on his CV, losing the light-flyweight final to Galal Yafai at the latter.
Zambia’s Patrick Chinyemba and Alex Winwood (Australia) met each other in the opening round in Tokyo.
Chinyemba won a tight 4-1 split before going out to Yafai who has been replaced by Kiaran MacDonald as England’s No 1 flyweight.
MacDonald, a points winner over Sunny Edwards in the 2016 Elite final, will be among the tallest flyweights in Birmingham at 5ft 7ins and is full of confidence after winning European Championship silver in May.
He beat Scotland’s Lennon Mulligan on his way to the final.
Ghana’s Yaw Samuel Addo was outpointed by Peter McGrail in the quarter-finals four years ago, the Liverpudlian afterwards saying he was dangerous early in each round, while Sri Lanka’s Ishan Bandara, a semi-final loser to Galal Yafai at 49kgs four years ago, is another with heavy hands.
Bandara, given a boxing lesson by Hoddesdon southpaw Ellis Trowbridge at the Eindhoven Box Cup recently, beat Namri Berri (Vanuatu) to secure a medal on the Gold Coast.
Otukile Mahommed (Botswana) is the other flyweight who competed in Tokyo.
PICK: KIARAN MACDONALD