Who are the youth boxers to watch out for?
The competitiveness of youth boxing is at an all time high and with so much quality coming through, the future of the sport sure looks bright. Some of this talent however has already made the breakthrough to the elite ranks with some awesome prospects already striking fear into the established order.
Teymur Mammadov (AZE) is a huge talent
Azerbaijan are leading the way in youth development with Light Flyweight Salman Alizada winning a gold medal at the 2011 European Men's Elite Championships in Ankara, Turkey, becoming in the process the youngest ever champion at this event. Alizada will look to book his quota for the London Olympics at the upcoming AIBA European Olympic Qualifying Event in Trabzon; in the same country he made history in last year.
Another teenager from Azerbaijan, Teymur Mammadov has really set the world on fire with his recent displays. Just like his compatriot, he also won a gold medal in the European Elite Championships before the Heavyweight star firmly established himself as a rising star with his sensational run in Baku as he clinched a silver medal at the AIBA World Championships in the front of an adoring home crowd. 18-year-old teammate Shaban Shahpalangov was AIBA Youth World Champion in 2010 and is another excellent prospect from this conveyor belt of talent in Azerbaijan.
With a rich history and pedigree of Olympic boxers, Cuba has worked hard to re-establish itself as one of the planet's top nations and with 18-year-old Youth Olympic Games winner and AIBA Youth World Champion Robeisy Ramirez involved in the national elite team, look out for him showcasing his magnificent array of skills this year. The Flyweight will be gunning for gold in London, don't bet against him either.
Irish southpaw Joseph Ward followed his gold medals at the 2009 AIBA Junior World Championships and at the 2010 AIBA Youth World Championships with another win the European Elite Championships, becoming his country's youngest ever boxer to do so. The extremely talented Light Heavyweight is targeting at least a bronze at this summer's Olympics, so watch this space.
The Philippines new Light Flyweight sensation Mark Anthony Barriga defied expectations by winning gold at the Sydney Jackson Memorial Tournament in Uzbekistan last May and followed this great result by clinching Olympic qualification as the 18-year-old reached the Round of 16 but lost against the eventual winner, triple World Champion Zou Shiming. Barriga now carries the expectations of the whole Filipino nation.
Traditional boxing nation Mexico took a title at the Panamerican Games in Guadalajara with 18-year-old Joselito Velasquez defeating all of his rivals at Light Flyweight with Cuba's Yosvany Veitia his most high profile victims. He is quick and fast and can punish you in a flash.
Italo Perea of Ecuador was also crowned champion at the 16th Panamerican Games despite being only 18; he is widely regarded as one of the athletes that will make a big impact in 2012.
Several other nations have got great talent in their ranks, at Light Flyweight keep an eye on Uzbekistan's National Champion Shakhobiddin Zoirov, England's European Championships bronze medallist Charlie Edwards, Japan's President's Cup gold medallist Naoya Inoue, US Olympic Trials winner Eros Correa and Armenia's current European Youth Champion Koryun Soghomonyan. They represent the new breed of fighter, intelligent and hungry for success.
At the European Youth Championships the best boxer trophy was awarded to Lithuania's 18-year-old Youth Olympic Games winner Ricardas Kuncaitis and the clever Baltic state champion will be raring to book his place for London at the forthcoming AIBA European Olympic Qualifying Event.
Dominican Republic's top fighter is current Panamerican Games silver medallist Dagoberto Aguero who will seek to take the Bantamweight division by storm this year.
Four African teenagers in Egypt's Youth Olympic Games bronze medallist Hesham Yahya Mahmoud Abdelaal, Morocco's Arab Champion Yassine Lakhal, Ghana's AIBA Youth World Championships quarter-finalist Azumah Mohammed and Seychelles' Indian Ocean Games winner Keddy Agnes will all be vying to make a big impression.
Do not discount powerful Russian talents such as reigning European Youth Champion Vasiliy Vetkin, Vladimir Korsunov, Amber Gloves Tournament winner Ivan Veryasov and former AIBA Junior World Champion Gasan Gimbatov to also make their mark on the world stage.
Poland can approach 2012 with renewed optimism with a new wave of boxers breaking into the national elite squad with Youth Olympic Games bronze medallist Dawid Michelus, Brandenburg Youth Tournament winner Dawid Jagodzinski and the strong and able Patryk Szymanski. There is so much talent around at the moment.
Unearthing the stars of tomorrow has always been one of the top priorities of each National Federation with the long-term health of the sport always at the forefront of their development, and the strides that have been made recently bode well for the future. 2012 promises to be one of the most exciting years in recent memory.
Who do you think will be the breakthrough stars of 2012?
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