The Olympic boxing prospects outside the UK looking to start a career in Tokyo 2020

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Muhammad Ali, Anthony Joshua, Andre Ward… many of the boxing stars of the past and present made their name in the Olympics.

The Games provide amateurs with a brilliant opportunity to compete with the best in their weight class in the world, while raising major exposure before turning pro.

So, what hot prospects in Tokyo this summer could make a name for themselves on the global stage?

Oleksandr Khyzhniak – Middleweight, Ukraine

Meet the man determined to follow in the footsteps of Vasyl Lomachenko and Oleksandr Usyk.

Born a boxer, Khyzhniak started training from the age of five under the watchful eye of his father. Khyzhniak Sr had a boxing career in the former USSR and therefore passed on all his knowledge and experience to his son.

The Ukrainian, 25, has postponed his professional career as his main focus is on winning an Olympic gold medal in Tokyo.

He became World Youth Champion in 2012, European Champion in 2017 and World Champion in the same year.

Last year, the Ukrainian Boxing Federation awarded its International Boxing Association (AIBA) 2020 Men’s ‘Best in Boxing’ award to Khyzhniak and no doubt many will watch at home with great interest to see how he fares this summer and beyond.

Oleksandr Khyzhniak has been one of the most promising Ukrainian boxers for quite some time

Oleksandr Khyzhniak has been one of the most promising Ukrainian boxers for quite some time

Eumir Marcial – Middleweight, Philippines

Marcial, also a middleweight, will compete with Khyzhniak in one of the most competitive divisions this year.

Last year, the 25-year-old officially turned pro after signing a deal with Manny Pacquiao Promotions, although he says he will continue to represent the Philippines in international amateur competitions, including the Games.

Marcial has already trained under Freddie Roach and is clearly on his way to a successful career with the pros.

His talent has always been apparent and the Filipino star won the 2011 Junior World Championships.

Marcial is a power puncher with a style befitting the professional game and his name is one that fans are likely to hear a lot more of in the years to come.

Eumir Marcial is already making waves and has an exciting power punch style

Eumir Marcial is already making waves and has an exciting power punch style

Eumir Marcial is already making waves and has an exciting power punch style

Muslim Gadzhimagomedov – Heavyweight, Russia

Gadzhimagomedov is a 1.80m powerhouse looking to add Olympic gold to his resume after taking first place on the podium at the 2019 European and World Championships.

He will enter Tokyo as the man to beat after passing Ecuador’s Julio Castillo 5-0 in the fight for the gold medal at the world championships.

The heavyweight even received a congratulatory message from Vladimir Putin for his triumph which read: ‘You have achieved your cherished dream of winning the world championships.

“I am convinced that your leadership attitude, perseverance and a real sporting spirit will help you in the future to achieve your goals and represent our country with dignity at the most prestigious international sporting events.”

Russian heavyweight Muslim Gadzimagomedov will be the man to beat in Tokyo

Russian heavyweight Muslim Gadzimagomedov will be the man to beat in Tokyo

Russian heavyweight Muslim Gadzimagomedov will be the man to beat in Tokyo

Andy Cruz – Light Welterweight, Cuba

Cuba has long been a shining light of Olympic boxing, but this time Cruz is their only real hope for a gold medal.

A world champion in 2017 and 2019 and winner of the Pan American Games in 2015 and 2019, he enters Tokyo as a firm favourite.

Cruz is a reactive, thinking type of boxer and offers a lightning strike with counter punches.

He understands the expectations on his shoulders at home and told Grandma: “I can’t deny that pre-competition favorite puts a bit of pressure on me, but I’ve been taking it easy for months. As a child I dreamed of becoming an Olympic champion and now I am one step away from it.’

Andy Cruz (left) is widely expected to translate his amateur success to the pros

Andy Cruz (left) is widely expected to translate his amateur success to the pros

Andy Cruz (left) is widely expected to translate his amateur success to the pros

Shakhobidin Zoirov – Flyweight, Uzbekistan

The reigning flyweight champion has a shot at another gold medal this summer.

Uzbekistan will arrive at the Games with arguably the strongest cohort of boxers of any country and Zoirov is arguably the best of them.

The 28-year-old has already signed with MTK Global and achieved three professional wins, but is focused on adding more gold to his collection.

He recently told the official Olympic channel: “I competed in the 2019 World Championships and became world champion. I then entered professional boxing three times and won all three fights.

“The difference between professional and amateur boxing is that amateur boxing requires more technical skills and more speed in hitting, so it’s more difficult in my opinion. For now, my motivation is to become a two-time Olympic champion, the first from Uzbekistan.’

Shakhobidin Zoirov (left) has already signed a professional contract with MTK global

Shakhobidin Zoirov (left) has already signed a professional contract with MTK global

Shakhobidin Zoirov (left) has already signed a professional contract with MTK global

Mirazizbek Mirzakhalilov – Featherweight, Uzbekistan

Former world champion and champion of the Asian Games, Mirzakhalilov arrives in Tokyo as one of Uzbekistan’s other great hopes for medals.

He is the dominant force at 57kg which is a relentlessly competitive division.

The razor-sharp boxer is already a hit at home and has met with Shavkat Mirziyoyev of the country.

He participates in tough training camps in the mountains, living a spartan lifestyle with his sparring partners and fellow Olympic hopefuls, which has paid off in the 26-year-old’s career so far.

Mirazizbek Mirzakhalilov is just one of a number of talented Uzbek boxers at the Games

Mirazizbek Mirzakhalilov is just one of a number of talented Uzbek boxers at the Games

Mirazizbek Mirzakhalilov is just one of a number of talented Uzbek boxers at the Games

David Nyika – Heavyweight, New Zealand

Former Commonwealth Games champion Nyika looks good at six feet and has the skills to back it up.

He has trained with Joseph Parker and has won one professional fight himself, taking advantage of the change in legislation to compete in Tokyo as well.

Nyika recently told Radio New Zealand: ‘There’s a good chance the travel restrictions will cripple us, so a little more variety is key for me and just getting as much experience as possible leading up to the Olympics.

“I’ve had 94 fights so far and I’d really like to get to 100 for the Olympics, but that’s unlikely unless I make it to a gold medal match, which would be nice.

“I’ve finished my boxing training and now it’s time to cash in.”

David Nyika looks like a future star every inch and has his eyes set on gold this summer

David Nyika looks like a future star every inch and has his eyes set on gold this summer

David Nyika looks like a future star every inch and has his eyes set on gold this summer

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