Tokyo Olympics: Boxing

  • 01/01/2021

Reportedly contested at the ancient Olympics, boxing has been a feature of every modern Games since St Louis 1904, with the exception of Stockholm 1912.

Women's boxing was introduced at London 2012.

At Tokyo, men will compete in eight weight divisions and women in five.

Unlike professionals, Olympic boxers compete over three three-minute rounds, making for more intense, action-packed bouts, but men are no longer required to wear protective headgear.

Historically, United States (50 gold medals) and Cuba (37) have ruled the medal table, with 79 nations appearing on the dias.

While only amateurs have participated at the Olympics - professionals will be allowed for the first time at Tokyo - most of the world's most famous fighters have graduated through those ranks on their way to pro ranks, including heavyweight icons Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Evander Holyfield, Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder, Wladimir Klitschko, Lennox Lewis.

Perhaps the most famous Olympic champion though was Cuban heavyweight Teofilio Stevenson, who became the first fighter to win the same division at three consecutive Games - Munich 1972, Montreal 1976 and Moscow 1980. His feat was matched by countryman Felix Savon at Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000.

New Zealand has captured gold, silver and bronze at the Olympics, with Ted Morgan taking out the welterweight title at Amsterdam 1928.

At Los Angeles 1984, Kevin Barry won a light-heavyweight silver medal, when he was awarded a controversial points decision over Holyfield in the semis. Barry has gone on to train our two most successful heavyweight pros - David Tua (who won heavyweight bronze at Barcelona) and Joseph Parker. 

Four years later at Seoul, Kiwi referee Keith Walker had to be escorted out of the stadium by security, after presiding over Bulgarian Alexander Hristov’s upset victory over hometown favourite Byun Jong-Il in the bantamweight division.

Two-time Commonwealth Games champion David Nyika is New Zealand’s only representative at Tokyo, contesting the heavyweight division.

NZ Team

David Nyika - men's heavyweight

Five to watch

Julio Cesar La Cruz (Cuba)

Whether he ends up fighting at light-heavyweight or heavyweight in Tokyo, La Cruz is always worth watching for the distinctive defensive technique that earned him the nickname 'La Sombra' or 'the Shadow'.

The elusive 31-year-old, who won gold at  Rio and four amateur world titles at light-heavyweight, drops his guard and invites his opponents on, before using his athleticism to swerve out of the way of the punches that come his way.

Shakhobidin Zoirov (Uzbekistan)

Zoirov won flyweight gold, as Uzbekistan topped the boxing medals table in Rio, and after winning the 2019 world title and his first three professional fights, he will be back in the Olympic ring to defend his title.

Southpaw 'Shakho', who tries to emulate hero Muhammad Ali with his footwork and ringcraft, fires quick body-head combinations, before making a swift exit out of range.

Mary Kom (India)

The face of the campaign to get women's boxing into the Games and flyweight bronze medallist at London 2012, the 38-year-old mother of four is set for her Olympic swansong.

Mary Kom in action at London 2012
Mary Kom in action at London 2012. Photo credit: Getty

The pint-sized boxer is one of the most decorated women fighters in the amateur game with a record six world championships titles, the last of which came in 2018. She has also won gold medals at the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games.

Eumir Marcial (Philippines)

The 25-year-old middleweight qualified for Tokyo last year and hopes to earn the Philippines its first ever Olympic gold medal.

Marcial has inevitably drawn comparisons with his country's greatest boxer, Manny Pacquiao, and has prepared under the tutelage of the world champion's trainer Freddie Roach, after turning professional last year.

Lauren Price (Britain)

The reigning world and European Games heavyweight champion, Price is determined to follow in the footsteps of trailblazer Nicola Adams by winning boxing gold for Britain.

A former world champion kickboxer and international soccer player for Wales, the 26-year-old makes up for her relatively short stature by using clever footwork and fast hands to score points on the counter.