Looking to Tokyo: The GB team

By Cain Bradley on September 8, 2016
Looking to Tokyo: The GB team
Lawrence Okolie was one of the stories of British boxing entering the Games. (Getty)

Anthony Joshua spoke of the importance of experience heading into the pro ranks and Okolie could be persuaded that remaining is his best option…

Men’s Flyweight: It was Galal Yafai who represented Britain at the Rio Olympics but it would make sense if he follows his two brothers to the professional ranks. Harvey Horn was perhaps the most disappointed to have not been chosen to compete. The Repton boxer has successfully competed as an England boxer on numerous occasions. He has wins over Galal Yafai and Olympic bronze medalist Nico Hernandez. At only 20 he is the favorite currently. Right behind him is the current national champion, Kieran McDonald. The eighteen-year-old beat Sunny Edwards in the final and has experience success for team GB at youth level. Aqeel Ahmed did beat him at the GB Championships but has a few years on him and discussed his difficulties with the young boxer. One of his early victims was Joe Maphosa, the Middlesborough standout who has boxed for Britain before. Andrew Winter, Faluk Hussain and Benn Norman are also contenders for a spot. Connor Butler is another youth boxer with a strong chance.

For me there are two contenders for this spot. Harvey Horn has the slight edge at the moment and is a quality boxer. But, Kieran McDonald has youth on his side. A big win here or there and some international senior experience could lead to him getting the pick.

2020 GB Olympian: Kieran McDonald

Men’s Flyweight: Muhammad Ali was the British boxer and disappointed. For such a talented boxer, with so much potential, he will surely have expected better. Having only turned 20, Ali could well be expected to stay amateur for another four years. His coach Mick Jelley has spoken before about how an Olympic medal can really help you cash in as a professional and will surely encourage four more years. Two of the best boxers in the Kingdom to have not gone to the Olympics also operate at Flyweight. Jack Bateson is a multinational champion at 22 and has fought a couple of times in the WSB. He has a few years on Ali and has spoken of turning professional. I expect he will. Also young is the Scottish star, Reece McFadden at 21. He is a Commonwealth Games bronze medalist after defeating Andrew Selby. Reece has all the potential in the world but is a bit of a bad boy and this will surely harm him in such a busy weight class. The two men beaten by Ali on his way to the 2015 national title were Louis Lynn and Blane Hyland. The top two seeds heading into this year’s version both were defeated as William Cawley went on to win. He beat the English titleholder Ismail Khan in the final. Muzzy Fuyana, Niall Farrell, Matthew McHale and Nathan Brown have also impressed. Akash Tuqir, Micky McDonagh, Lewis Coley, Shiloh DeFreitas and Edward Barrett are probably the youth talents with the most chance. Coley impressed at the Youth European Championships while Tuqir won them last year.

A division that should be considered one of the gems of British boxing. If either Bateson or Ali chooses to remain amateur they are strong favorites. I think Ali will stay until Tokyo and despite intense pressure from Khan, Hyland, Fuyana, Cawley and Tuqir he will keep his spot on the team.

2020 GB Olympian: Muhammad Ali

Women’s Flyweight: In 2020, Nicola Adams could win her third Olympic title. The Leeds boxer will be 37 when the time comes and has already discussed a life outside of boxing. A multi-national champion, Whiteside has also been a World Champion silver medalist. Jade Ashmore was the boxer she beat in the final. The young phenom from Chesterfield was a youth European bronze medalist and is a relative novice. Increasing experience and her boxing ability could really lead to her pushing the established boxers. Linsey Hollaway is the British Champion after defeating Jade Ashmore. Rachel McMullin and Kim Shannon are other boxers who have impressed while if people choose to get to flyweight in order to make the Olympics then Demi-Jade Restvan has a chance. Crystal Barker is a young British boxer who also has a chance.

British Boxing hardly strikes me as the most likely to be sentimental. If Nicola Adams is not the best, it is unlikely she makes it to Tokyo. At 38 I think some form of decline must have set in and it comes down to whether Jade Ashmore or Lisa Whiteside can take advantage of it. I think the edge goes to Lisa Whiteside who has a great chance at a medal while Jade Ashmore has to wait for the future

2020 GB Olympian: Lisa Whiteside

Men’s Bantamweight: Qais Ashfaq was the British representative in Rio and has been around for what feels like forever. Despite his young age he also described his intention to turn professional after Rio. Peter McGrail is the number two in the country and has represented Britain a few times. Robeisy Ramirez even said he rated him higher than Qais Ashfaq. The Everton Red Triangle boxer has to be a favorite for the spot and won the national championship. His final was a walkover as Liam Davies, who has won over 80% of his bouts, had been badly bruised. He overcame Charlie Kenny in the semi final, a multi-national champion and currently England titleholder who has dynamite in his fists. Chris Bourke, Connor Marsden and the young Jack Hillier are the three boxers who should also have an eye kept on them. Lee McGregor is the nineteen-year-old Scottish boxer who won the British Championship this year beating Jack Hillier and Joshua John. He was sensational in that tournament showing great power. Charles Frankham is the standout youth boxer, an active presence on social media with a huge following. He is a European champion who won a bronze medal in the World Championships. Nico Leivars is one of two boxers to have beaten them. Lewis Southgate has skipped between this and 52kg but is also a contender.

This should come down to McGrail and McGregor. Charles Frankham is absolutely sensational but is the youngest of the group. It he adapts well to the senior competition then it could change things. Jack Hillier is a boxer who can look sensational it boxing his own fight but needs to improve his back foot boxing. Bourke is already behind McGrail and it is hard to see a way past. Charlie Kenny and Liam Davies are two big contenders but with such limited spots to go around it is very hard to see them developing at international level. I expect a great battle between the two aforementioned boxers for one spot but edge to Peter McGrail.

2020 GB Olympian: Peter McGrail

Men’s Lightweight: Welshman Joe Cordina represented Great Britain in Rio and was one of the more highly rated prospects. He perhaps disappointed in Rio—losing to Hurshid Torjbaev and has suggested that he will not turn professional as he dreams of an Olympic medal. England is currently dominated by boxers from the Birtley Boxing Club. Twin Luke McCormack is the number one and has taken Olympic Champion Robson Conceicao to a split decision. He dominated the 2015 National Championship beating Cory O’Reagan, Jack Wood and Adam Cope. Those represent the nearly names of this weight division and with Luke missing, club mate Callum French took the 2016 National Championship beating Cory O’Reagan in the final. The impressive southpaw counterpuncher has come on and does have a chance if he adds more offense to his repertoire. Jordan Flynn, Jack Brooker and Ryan Fillingham should also be mentioned. Jake Clarke defeated Fillingham at the National Championships with a nasty body shot and his unique style is definitely intriguing. Josh Sanford is probably the leading Scottish boxer but was comfortably outpointed by O’Reagan. Mark Chamberlain, Ben Marksby, Tom Collins and Daniel Stringer are the English boxers who have impressed at the youth level. Mark Reid of Scotland is only 18 and was incredibly impressive when dominating Daniel Stringer in the Three Nations.

The three established names of Cordina, French and McCormack are surely the favorites for the spot. Adam Cope, Cory O’Reagan and Jack Wood just seem to be a level below. Jake Clarke will no doubt improve with experience and his power is terrifying but his unorthodox style may be worked out by the elite boxers. Mark Reid and Josh Sanford represent a strong challenge from Scotland but both need strong improvements. I think Luke McCormack edges ahead, possibly with a Commonwealth Games victory and Joe Cordina clears the waters by going professional.

2020 GB Olympian: Luke McCormack

Women’s Lightweight: Britain did not qualify with Chantelle Cameron missing out on three chances to qualify. She will only be 29 at the next Olympics and with increased international experience she could be a contender. Sandy Ryan was not given a chance to qualify but at the World Championships she was chosen at light-welterweight and actually went further than Cameron despite being at a higher weight. She will also be entering her prime for the next Olympics. Both could be usurped by upcoming talent. Shanice James is an Army boxer who despite a lack of bouts, only 16, has proven she belongs in this class winning a Haringey box cup silver medal. Amy Broadhurst beat her to that gold medal in a great bout. She is a 13-time Irish champion but qualifies for Britain through her Dad and joined Islington boxing club to pursue that dream. A few young boxers will feel they also should be taken into consideration. Ellie Scotney was the boxer of the 2015 European youth championships. Shona Whitwell managed to get the win over Ellie in the 2016 England Youth Championships. Bria Fielding has beaten both girls and will also be a contender at senior level. Charlene Jones is the Welsh international who fought at the Commonwealth Games. Louise Orton and Sarah Dunne will all also be hoping a small improvement can get them to that level.

You imagine plenty of these girls will improve with experience. Chantelle Cameron and Shanice James are still relatively inexperienced. Meanwhile Sandy Ryan and Amy Broadhurst are still young boxers who should also improve and the youngsters coming through are incredible. Maybe the next Olympics is not their best chance to compete, try 2024. Having seen the youngsters spar, Ellie was the most impressive while Shanice James if she can comfortably make 60kg and continue to improve must be a contender.

2020 British Olympian: Ellie Scotney

Men’s Light Welterweight: Pat McCormack is the stronger of the twins and was one of the more impressive British boxers at Rio. The young twin has always maintained Tokyo is his aim. Big money offers will surely be coming his way but I expect him to turn professional with Luke which will probably lead him to Tokyo. Alfie Price is a quality operator and only a few years ago took Olympic silver medalist Lorenzo Sotomayor to a split decision and is rated second ahead of Sam Maxwell who he beat earlier in the year. Mason Smith had his 100th bout at the Haringey Box Cup but lost to Connor Parker. He also lost in the final of the National Championship after defeating Martin McDonagh in a disputable bout. McDonagh has had a good year himself but lost to Jacob Gabriel in the Haringey Box Cup final. Dalton Smith made his WSB debut for Britain recently and is one of the young seniors who is destined for big things. Ben Vaughan, Jolly Tyler and Mark Dickinson are the dominant youth boxers at this weight.

McDonagh is one of my favorite boxers but needs to improve on his front foot boxing. Mason Smith is another who could do with improving his front foot boxing but the move to Islington may help him. Dalton Smith has been fast tracked to the GB squad ahead of both of those boxers and seems the more likely to continue with the team. Alfie Price is a strong candidate but if Pat McCormack stays amateur as expected then he has to be the strong favorite. I think it comes down to Dalton Smith or Pat McCormack.

2020 GB Olympian: Pat McCormack

Men’s Welterweight: One of the biggest battles for the GB place came at welterweight where Josh Kelly eventually got the spot. He performed admirably but lost to the Olympic Champion. His tweets since have suggested to me he is looking towards to the professional game but it would be no surprise if he returned for 2020. Another man who got a chance to qualify was the upcoming Cyrus Pattinson. Connor Loftus is a double national champion and perhaps feels he deserved more of an opportunity. Ekow Essuman was the number one seed at this year’s national championships but it was the young Carl Fail who impressed by winning the competition and also looking dominant in the Three Nations. Joe Laws is the England titleholder but was surprised by Charlie Stevens at the Elite Championships. The crown jewel of British youth boxing is Mo Harris Akbar. The Commonwealth youth champion is also a European silver medalist and will expect to be one of the best in the country on arrival. Danny Barrett and Darren Johnson are also young boxers who will be looking to make an impression.

Even if the three boxers who battled for contention choose not to turn professional they may be overtaken by two younger starlets. Josh Kelly has a case to stay amateur. He has showed incredible ability and has been beaten in the World and Olympics by the eventual winners. I do make it a more than 50% chance he turns over which does influence my pick to some extent. The real matter though is the quality of Carl Fail and Mo Harris Akbar. I edge Harris Akbar on his better resume but as they gain experience I envisage these two having some incredible battles.

2020 GB Olympian: Mo Harris Akbar

Men’s Middleweight: Anthony Fowler is one of the boxers who made clear before Rio he would be turning professional after the Games. Along with Felix Cash and Troy Williamson, that means the top three boxers at the start of 2016 have all gone professional. That should put the National Champion Ben Whittaker in pole position. However Jordan Reynolds is a boxer with an incredible record and numerous tournament wins including King of the Ring and the Haringey Box Cup. The University Champions recently had a good battle as Ryszard Lewicki edged Lee Jenkins and Jordan Thompson, both quality opposition. Dan Woledge and Harry Scarf are two dangerous operators in the division as well. Zac Chelli, Lewis Richardson and Ben Fail are all boxers who have not long turned senior and have impressed. Over the border also has numerous strong options. John Docherty, Danny Burke and William Hutchinson are the best Scotland has to offer and are all legitimate contenders. The best youth boxer at the moment is Ben Rees who boxes out of Birtley.

The way Ben Whittaker beat Jordan Reynolds in the National Final was so impressive it is hard to get out of my mind. Reynolds is active on social media and has a huge following but has a lot to overcome in Whittaker. Some of the other younger boxers in this weight are very impressive and the bouts between them will be a spectacle for years to come. I do edge to Ben Whittaker after he was so impressive in Sheffield but would not be surprised if it goes another way.

2020 GB Olympian: Ben Whittaker

Women’s Middleweight: A hard weight to predict as any of the talented youth who look likely to make the weight are perhaps too young and unexposed to predict. Savannah Marshall was the first female British World Championship gold medalist in 2012 when she defeated Clarissa Shields. The 25-year-old has suffered defeats at both Olympic Games. She will believe that in 2020 she will be in her prime. Natasha Gale will be the prime candidates to overtake Savannah. Having not ever laced up a pair of gloves before the London Olympics, she is already a twice National Champion. Nikoletta Paksi was the finalist this year but then moved down to welterweight to win the Haringey Box Cup crown. Lauren Johnson is the English titleholder but has already talked about turning professional. Alex Turbitt has also held the belt while Elena Narazanski only needs a small improvement. Lauren Price is an impressive Welsh southpaw who is also a contender.

Savannah Marshall is young enough to be the favorite to take the spot in Rio. Rob McCracken had spoken to the importance of having a domestic rival and Natasha Gale is surely going to be that rival. Whether she can surpass Marshall if another question. If as suggested that Savannah Marshall improves with the competition then it is her spot.

2020 GB Olympian: Savannah Marshall

Men’s Light Heavyweight: Joshua Buatsi was one of the more impressive British boxers at Rio. He is another young boxer but it would be a shock if promoters are not queuing up to sign him. With Buatsi out it opens a spot for everyone else. It represents the best chance for a Scottish boxer to star. Sean Lazzerini has not long become a senior but was the Commonwealth Youth Games Champion. James Nelson is probably in pole position after becoming Scottish national championship while Boris Crighton beat him in the three nations final. It was Tom Whittaker Hart who was the English representative after winning the national title. George Crotty impressed in that tournament as well. Ashley Vanzie is a boxer I have always been a fan of but his last couple of years have not been particularly impressive. Bryce Goodridge won the Haringey Box Cup for the fourth time this season and is an experienced England boxer. Dean Laing, Reece Ellis and Lewie Edmondson also have potential. Sammy Lee and Omar Augustine are two other youth boxers who could contend for the spots.

I think the Scottish lads have to be the favorites. Tom Whittaker Hart has been impressive to an extent and his loss in the Three Nations says a lot to me. To me most of the boxers of this weight are very good but would struggle with the Olympic step up. Out of the Scottish trio it is such a tough pick. Lazzerini may have the most potential but his power may not translate straight away to the senior ranks. Crighton and Nelson have both beaten each other and the selection for the Commonwealth Games will be an interesting one perhaps foreshadowing the Olympic battle.

2020 GB Olympian: Boris Crighton

Men’s Heavyweight: Lawrence Okolie was one of the stories of British boxing entering the Games. The young Londoner has only had 25 amateur bouts but if the draw kept him apart from the favorites he was seen as a medal possibility. In four years with increased international experience his ability will surely see him as a medal favorite. Whether he resists the chance to turn professional will be interesting. Close friend Anthony Joshua spoke of the importance of experience heading into the pro ranks and Okolie could be persuaded by the heavyweight champion that remaining is his best option. Elsewhere the leading contender is probably the Scottish boxer Scott Forrest who is the British Champion. The previous year it was the Welsh boxer Kody Davies who has been tipped for big things for Joe Calzaghe. Natty Ngwenya was the number one seed in the English Elite Championship but was stopped in the semi final by Cheavon Clarke who went on to win the tournament, beating Chris Billam Smith in the final. James Branch is a young impressive talent. Danny Williams is another who was talented as a youth but possibly not lived up to potential. Mike McKay, Declan Fusco, Peter Jack Stubbs and Ryan Hatton could also contend for the spots.

Will Lawrence Okolie remain amateur? Opinions seem to be split but I’d give it a 60% chance. This would make him heavy favorite for the spot as his talent matched with increased international experience and better sparring will make him a strong medal contender for Tokyo. Cheavon Clarke was the English champion but he may also see his future as a professional. Scott Forrest and Kody Davies may be the best shouts after Lawrence Okolie and as always look for a heated Commonwealth Games.

2020 GB Olympian: Lawrence Okolie

Men’s Super Heavyweight: Joe Joyce is another of the boxers who made reference to turning professional after Rio. Into his spot surely steps veteran of the game Frazer Clarke. The big man who became the cheerleader of Team GB in Rio will consider himself unlucky to have missed out to Joe Joyce — who won silver — after great form in the WSB. He is going to be 29 at Tokyo so you do question whether he may also look to turn professional. Daniel Dubois is also a big part of the set up given his success as a youth and his youth compared to Clarke may give him the edge. He pulled out along with Joshua Quailey — another talent — for the Elite Championships. This allowed Alex Dickinson to take the victory but it was after two closely fought contests with Chaz Niheli and Solomon Dacres. Young Londoners who are on the rise include Jamie Tshikeva, Courtney Bennett, Courtney Gilead and Jonathan Palata.  Four other impressive young boxers are Luke Pollit, Kieran Williams, Naylor Ball and Mitchell Barton.

It is hard to see past the two boxers who are already part of the British set up in Frazer Clarke and Daniel Dubois. Dubois is the leader of a group of young talents but in general super heavyweight boxing is the home of an older, more experienced boxer. That edges it to Frazer but then the chances of him turning professional makes you flick back towards Dubois. Dacres would be the outsider that I really rate. He was probably unfortunate to win the National Championships and is quite an inexperienced boxer. He has great power and is a good boxer. I am going to give it to Frazer believing he edges Dubois.

2020 GB Olympian: Frazer Clarke

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