WHO WILL GO TO THE NEXT OLYMPICS?

They promised, we waited. It came, we watched. It ended… we wanted more. This summer’s London Olympics were spectacular and Welsh boxing had plenty of reason to celebrate when it all ended two weeks ago. The taste of Olympic boxing is still lingering, the thirst for it is beginning to build again and as the dust settles heads are beginning to turn to the next set that will represent Wales and GB in four years time at Rio, Brazil. So, who could it be? Barry’s flyweight Andrew Selby was unlucky to face Cuba’s eventual gold medalist Robeisy Ramirez Carrazana before the medal stages of this summer’s games but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the 23-year-old stay amateur for a second crack at gold in Rio. Commonwealth and Olympic medals are the only thing missing from Selby’s historic trophy cabinet but he could face stiff opposition to get there with a battle brewing beneath him. At light-flyweight, London’s Charlie Edwards and Leeds’ Jack Bateson are showing serious signs of promise that could rival Selby – both are young, 19 and 17 respectively, and are likely to grow in to flyweights over the next four years. One challenge for Selby could come closer to home though. Despite Gwent Swansea’s Jay Harris not yet fighting at Selby’s level, the 22-year-old is impressing more with every outing – standing out with  41-33 win in the WABA Elite Championships in March, following that with a 27-21 victory for gold over England’s Joe McCulley in May in the GB Championships. It’s more likely St Mellons Fred Evans will turn professional following his silver medal – Wales’ first since Ralph Evans’ bronze in the 1972 Munich Games. There’s sure to be a queue of promoters with big pockets waiting to tempt Evans to the professional game and nobody could blame him for taking them – boxing is a short career and for that reason, a selfish sport. The 21-year-old shared a love affair with the crowd during his roller-coaster run this summer and it could be enough to keep him in the unpaid ranks for Rio. If Evans does stay amateur then he’ll face stiff competition from Liverpool’s Anthony Fowler for the podium spot. The Scouser from Golden Gloves ABC has been in serious form with five consecutive competition wins and he’ll be sure to cross paths with Evans if the two raced to Rio together. Cardiff’s Joe Cordina stands a big chance of following St Joseph’s ABC stable-mate Fred Evans but his biggest foe could come from another Welshman, Llanelli’s lightweight Zack Davies. Scotland’s lightweight Josh Taylor represented GB at London’s Olympics but with squad captain Tom Stalker expected to turn pro then Taylor may return to his old division of light-welterweight. Liverpool’s Sam Maxwell, who holds a win over Cordina from the 2011 GB Championships, shot to prominence in the last Olympic qualifier in April at Turkey. Despite his inexperience, the Scouser has performed well on the international stage but his frame and size could see him rise in the weight classes before Rio. The Welsh lightweight pair, Cordina and Davies, have spent plenty of time at GB’s set up at the Institute of Sport in Sheffield and with having established themselves on the GB Development squad already, they have solid foundations to build on over the next four years. Another St Joseph’s ABC fighter, Sean McGoldrick, is a shout for qualification to 2016’s Olympics. The 20-year-old shot to prominence with a Commonwealth Games gold medal in October 2010 but faced an uphill battle to unpin Hull’s Luke Campbell from the podium squad – Campbell found his best form to secure a world silver and Olympic gold in the tournaments following the Commonwealth Games. If Campbell was to move on to the professional game then McGoldrick would face a battle with Leeds’ Qais Ashfaq. 19-year-old Ashfaq impressed with a stellar senior ABA title this year and, like McGoldrick, will be looking to catch the coach’s eyes to progress from GB’s Development squad to the podium squad. Wales’ women warriors will be keeping a keen eye on the decision of AIBA (International Boxing Association) regarding their statement that there will be more weight classes for women at the Rio 2016 games. Due to the impact of female boxers such as Katie Taylor, Claressa Shields and Nicola Adams, the sport is set to thrive post-London 2012. Light-flyweight Lynsey Holdaway is currently ranked third by AIBA, she’s demonstrated her class before with a European silver in October at Rotterdam and if the 48KG class was introduced to the next Olympics Holdaway would be a serious medal contender. Welterweight Lauren Price is another who will be hoping her weight class will be chosen for 2016. With European and world junior championship bronze medals at just 18-years-old, Price has the promise for many more medals. An outside shout is Rachael Pritchard – the five bout novice is very raw but with experienced coach Tony Borg polishing her talent, the featherweight surely has more titles and medals in her future – adding to the Welsh title she won in only her first year of boxing. Looking down the line, two boxers that are standing out to me are Jamie Evans (66kg) of Splott Adventure ABC and Gelligaer ABC’s Kyran Jones (60kg). Evans has six Welsh and three British titles under his belt while Jones recently took the GB Schoolboy Championships gold with a 14-4 victory over the undefeated, two times English Champion, Tommy Ball – handing the Londoner his first defeat in 15 fights. Maybe Rio is too soon for the pair but in four years time I could be writing that these are the Olympians of 2020. Everything written here can quickly become outdated. Four years is a long time and the GB squads are certain to chop and change on the road to Rio but I’m sure Wales can have a presence when the Olympics visit Brazil in 2016. We were blessed for Fred Evans and Andrew Selby to represent us at this summer’s Olympics, their run to the games was phenomenal. If they choose to go to Rio then I look forward to the journey as much as anything that can happen in Welsh boxing but I’m sure they wouldn’t be the only Welsh warriors on that journey. Dewi Powell BoxingWales Editor

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