Amateur Boxing: Taking a Look at the World's Best, Part 2

Andrew Selby of Wales won the European Gold and World's Silver medals in competition this year. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Want to get to know amateur boxing a little better? Matt Mosley is here to give you a look and some profile information about some of the world's best unpaid fighters.

Continuing our look at the top amateur boxers in the world, we move on to the "Intermediate" section. These fighters are not necessarily any less talented than the guys from the previous "Established" list of profiles, they are just not as proven and have not achieved as much, to date. They also generally tend to be a bit younger, and could be approaching their peaks by the time London 2012 comes around.

[ Related: Part One of the Series ]

INTERMEDIATE

Andrew Selby (Wales)
22, Flyweight, AIBA World Ranking - No. 2

The current European champion and one of Wales and Great Britain's best amateur fighters. As mentioned in Part 1, his fight with the Russian, Misha Aloyan, for the World's gold medal was extremely close and could almost have gone to the Welshman. A skillful counterpuncher, quite tall for the weight, he keeps a tight guard and likes to rattle off quick combinations to head and body. He is also accurate with his counters. One of Britain's best hopes for gold in London.

Major Accomplishments
World Championships - Silver 2011
European Championships - Gold 2011, Bronze 2008

Chances of turning pro after London
A medal, especially a gold one, would be great to take into the pros, but I personally think he will go into the paid ranks whatever the results in London. His World's silver is a pretty good promotional boost to take with him and he would be following in his older brother, Lee's, footsteps. Lee Selby is the current pro British featherweight champion.

Selby vs Misha Aloyan


Lazaro Alvarez (Cuba)
20, Bantamweight, AIBA World Ranking - No. 2

For someone so young, Alvarez should technically be in the "Promising Prospects" section of this list, but he's already the World Champion, Pan American Games Champion and World No. 2, so I think it's fair to say that he belongs here. He beat England's Luke Campbell in the World's final (14-10) in what was his first major tournament (the Pan-Am Games came after, taking place last month). He has a typical Cuban style, looking to counterpunch, but can also get on the front foot when necessary. Still looks like a work in progress to me, which says a lot for him really, considering what he's achieved already.

Major Accomplishments
World Championships - Gold 2011
Pan American Games - Gold 2011

Chances of turning pro after London
At his age, even if he wins gold, I think he'll likely hang around in the amateurs for a while. With the large amount of Cubans defecting to the pros in recent years though, who knows?

Alvarez vs. Luke Campbell


Thomas Stalker (England)
27, Light Welterweight, AIBA World Ranking - No. 1

What a great name for a boxer, "Stalker"! He may be by name but his style is not really that of one who hunts down his opponent. He's more of the old, typical European stand up boxer style, who is tall for the weight and likes to use his range to his advantage. He keeps his hands high and generally has a good defence and sound technique. Currently ranked the World No. 1 and the European champion, he was beaten comfortably (31-18) in the semi finals of the World's by the highly touted Ukrainian, Denis Berinchyk (who will feature in Part 3 of this series), and had to settle for a bronze. Berinchyk could be something special though.

Major Accomplishments
World Championships - Bronze 2011
European Championships - Silver 2011, Silver 2010
Commonwealth Games - Gold 2010
Current World No. 1

Chances of turning pro after London
I'm not sure what his intentions are but he will be 28 by the time of the Olympics, so in my opinion it would be too late. Also, I have say, I don't think he would make for a good pro. He doesn't hit all that hard, he's not all that fast, but he has good all round technique and a tight defence. I think his style is much more suited to that of the traditional amateur, points building way.

Stalker vs Alexander Solyanikov


Oleksandr Usyk (Ukraine)
24, Heavyweight, AIBA World Ranking - No. 3

Usyk started out at middleweight six years ago, then moved up to light-heavy in 2008, winning the European Championship at that weight. He then moved on up to heavyweight (200 lbs limit) in 2009 and has been most successful at the higher weight. Tall and athletic looking, he likes to fight out of a high guard and will let punches go in combination when he sees the opportunity. He also goes to the body quite often.

One of four Ukrainians to win gold at the recent World Championships, looking at Usyk's achievements below, it seems that he is improving as he goes, and as he grows.

Major Accomplishments
World Championships - Gold 2011, Bronze 2009
European Championships - Gold 2008 (at light heavyweight), Bronze 2006 (at middleweight)

Chances of turning pro after London
I think it would be an ideal time as he'd still be relatively young for a heavyweight/cruiserweight if he turned pro after the Games. When you consider the likes of Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko have had most of their success well into their 30's, and that heavyweights sometimes fight at the top level up to their late 30's nowadays, I think he will see turning pro as a viable option, especially if he wins the gold medal. He would likely have Klitschko backing promotionally, too.

He is 6' 3", but whether he would be big enough for heavyweight or if he would have to at least start out at cruiserweight in the pro's is debatable.

Usyk vs. Artur Beterbiev


Luke Campbell (England)
24, Bantamweight, AIBA World Ranking - No. 3

The 2008 European Champion and recent World's silver medalist, he's tall for the weight and has a really pleasing style to watch. Great balance, wide stance, high guard, good technique and can fight both coming forwards and going backwards. I first noticed him when he won the Euro's three years ago and thought he looked outstanding at the time, but he has unfortunately been hampered by a hand injury which is hopefully now fully healed. He ran into the Cuban, Alvarez, in the World's final but i really think that, along with Andrew Selby and Anthony Joshua, Campbell is one of Great Britain's best hopes for gold in London.

Major Accomplishments
World Championships - Silver 2011
European Championships - Gold 2008

Chances of turning pro after London
I would say about 70/30 in favour of him doing so at the moment. He might not be a powerful puncher, but he has a decent dig and can put combinations together with speed. What would stand him in good stead in the amateurs, in my opinion, is that he has very good boxing fundamentals and seems to be totally at home when in the ring. He looks assured and confident in his abilities. If he manages to win the gold I would say he is almost certain to turn pro.

Campbell vs. John Joe Nevin


Julio Cesar La Cruz (Cuba)
22, Light Heavyweight, AIBA World Ranking - No. 1

Like his countryman Lazaro Alvarez, Cruz has enjoyed much success already in his relatively short amateur career. The fact that he's the World and Pan American Champion at only 22 years old tells you that he's likely destined for amateur greatness, like so many of his fellow Cuban boxers throughout history. They may not be quite what they once were as the dominant force in amateur boxing, but they still manage to produce medal winners, and often champions, at every major tournament.

To be honest, I didn't see Cruz fight at the World's, and there's no footage that I can find of him on YouTube, so I haven't actually seen him fight at all yet, but all you really need to know is that he's Cuban, he's young, he's the World Champion and he's also ranked No.1 in the world. That surely makes him worth watching.

Major Accomplishments
World Championships - Gold 2011
Pan American Games - Gold 2011
Current World No. 1

Chances of turning pro after London
If he wins the gold, I think he turns pro pretty much straight away. If he doesn't he may want to hang around for the next Olympics, but he's already the World Champion, and that's a big boost to take into the pros with you. With so many Cubans lured by the bright lights and the big money that pro boxing and capitalism offers, I think that any of these talented young athletes could defect and turn pro at any time really. It can depend on their personal circumstances, promotional offers, friends who have already defected and turned pro encouraging them to do the same, lots of reasons.

* * * * *

As a general side note to this article Id just like to say that when the title "European Champion" is mentioned in professional boxing, it is often thought of as an inferior, stepping stone title, and sometimes rightly so, although there have been some very good European Champions in the pros over the years.

In the amateurs it's a bit different. Europe covers many, if not most, of the top amateur boxing nations, save for Cuba and a few Asian nations (and maybe the USA, if you're hoping for a revival).

Russia, Ukraine, Italy, England, Wales, Ireland and Azerbaijan are all included under the European umbrella, and are all highly successful amateur boxing nations.

Ukraine won the most gold medals at the last World Championships, with four, along with one silver. Out of ten total weight classes, that's not bad going. European nations won gold in six of those ten weight classes.

The reason I mention this is that when some fans see that, for example, Luke Campbell or Oleksandr Usyk won the European Championships at some point in their amateur career, they may think that that is a secondary title, of little value. Of course, it's not as important as the Olympics or the World's, but when you consider the strength of the nations taking part, it's a very high level competition in its own right, and fighters who win there often go on to achieve great things in amateur boxing. I imagine it would be similar in stature to the Pan American Games, certainly in years gone by when Cuba and the USA ruled.

Well, that wraps it up for this section of the three part series. Thanks for reading and Part 3 will be up in the next few days.

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