World flyweight champion Hasanboy Dusmatov will be one of the favorites for gold when boxing kicks off at the Asian Games on Sunday, with qualification for the Paris Olympics also up for grabs.
The 30-year-old Uzbek was Olympic champion in 2016 and will be looking for the only gold medal still missing from his collection in the 51kg division in Hangzhou.
His first fight will take place on Monday, with the gold and silver medalists in the seven men’s weight classes all guaranteed a place at next summer’s Olympic Games in Paris.
In the women’s competition, 20 places in Paris can be won in Hangzhou.
Dusmatov was stunned by a huge upset by Amit Panghal in the 2018 Asian Games final, but the Indian is a notable absentee this time.
Another looking to turn 2018 silver into gold is middleweight (71kg) world champion Aslanbek Shymbergenov of Kazakhstan.
2013 Asian Championship winner Shiva Thapa will lead the Indian team in Panghal’s absence.
In the women’s competition, light flyweight (50kg) Thi Tam Nguyen has recovered from a torn knee ligament he suffered at the SEA Games earlier this year and will lead a nine-member Vietnam team.
The world championships silver medalist has already secured her place in Paris, becoming the first Vietnamese boxer to compete in two consecutive Olympics.
She could once again battle India’s multiple world champion Zareen Nikhat, who defeated the Vietnamese by unanimous decision to take the world title in New Delhi earlier this year.
Nikhat also won gold at the 2022 World Championships in Istanbul in the 52kg category.
South Korea’s Oh Yeon-ji returns to defend her lightweight (60kg) gold medal at the Asian Games.
Organizers will be desperate to avoid the chaos of Jakarta five years ago, when the Asian Games boxing match was marred by protests and controversy.
Two North Korean boxing coaches were thrown out of the Asiad after refusing to leave the ring when their boxer lost a split decision.
And there were ugly scenes when an Iraqi fighter lost another close fight and a fan tried to storm the ring in protest, egged on by the boxer’s cornermen.
After that, and a series of controversies at the 2016 Rio Olympics, the International Olympic Committee in 2019 suspended the International Boxing Association (AIBA) from practicing the sport.
Earlier this year, AIBA was expelled from the Olympic movement, with the new IOC-backed World Boxing taking responsibility for managing Olympic amateur boxing following a successful 2021 Tokyo Games.