Liverpool boxer Tom Stalker is the captain of the Team GB Olympic boxing squad, but the 28-year-old has had to sit on the sidelines so far at London 2012, as he has a bye into the last 16.
The southpaw is the world’s number one amateur at light-welterweight level, and finally gets a chance to prove his worth on Saturday when he takes on Manoj Kumar of India, who scored an impressive 13-7 win over his opponent from Turkmenistan at the ExCel Arena on Tuesday evening.
Manoj started slowly, wisely conserving energy before picking up the pace in the second half of the three-round contest, and Stalker will have to be wary of those tactics as he begins his bid to add an Olympic gold to the list of honours gained since he took up boxing at the age of 19.
A European Union Championship gold, two European Championship silvers, gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, and a World Championship bronze medal in 2011 are all proof of his ability, so he will not be phased by the occasion, that is for sure.
The number two seed, Denys Berinchyk of the Ukraine will be stalker’s biggest stumbling block, and he should make it to the quarters past Anthony Yigit of Sweden.
Berinchyk, who also received a first round bye, was second in the 2011 World Championships, so Stalker knows of his threat, should they meet. Elsewhere, Australian Jeffrey Horn looks useful judged by the manner of his 19-5 demolition of his Zambian opponent.
The other main contender for Olympic Boxing light-welterweight honours is Everton Lopez, who along with Italy’s Vincenzo Mangiacapre, was given a bye until Saturday. Lopez takes on the tough Cuban, Beijing Olympic bronze medallist Roniel Iglesias, while the Italian faces Gyula Kate of Hungary, who at the age of 30, has finally won an Olympic bout, having been eliminated early on at both Athens and Beijing.
There will be history made in the ring as well, because for the first time ever in Olympic Boxing, there is a women’s competition. Stalker’s fellow scouser Natasha Jones carries home hopes in the lightweight division, and having gained bronze in the world championships, she will be fully focused on going for gold, as will flyweight Nicola Adams.
The Leeds-born 29-year-old has had to scrimp and save to fund her Olympic dream, and has had to overcome career-threatening injuries as well, so no-one deserves a medal more than the ex-Emmerdale and Coronation Street extra.
Reigning world champion at middleweight Savannah Marshall is also strongly fancied to give Team GB a gold medal, when the action at the ExCel Arena reaches the later stages at the weekend.
Olympic Boxing Odds
Ladbrokes have the current best odds for the Olympic Boxing events and in the Men’s Light-Welterweight place Everton Lopez as Favourite to take gold at 2/1, world no. 2 Denys Berinchyk of Ukraine at 3/1 and Team GB’s Medal contender Tom Stalker at 9/2, well worth a bet we think! The women’s Olympic medal hopefuls are Natasha Jones at 20/1 in the Women’s Lightweight, Nicola Adams is favourite at 6/4 to win the Women’s Flyweight and Savannah Marshall is also favourite to take the Middleweight at 7/4.
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