• Steve Bunce

Incredible squad destined for golds

Steve Bunce July 24, 2012
There are a host of World Championship medallists in the Great Britain squad © PA Photos

I think Great Britain possesses an incredibly strong boxing squad for the Olympics, and I would be amazed if we didn't pick up at least five medals, including a couple of golds. The ten-strong team - seven men, three women - are highly talented, and the most intensely-trained we've ever had. Some have been inside the system since the last Olympics.

Naturally, the one who excites me the most is super-heavyweight Anthony Joshua, a silver medallist at the World Championship last year. He's a big, big guy, with a giant smile, a mighty right and that is what Olympic fans want. He will be compared to Teofilo Stevenson, which is a stretch, but a fantastic comparison.

He's an entertainer: a big lump, not afraid to scrap, and with a tendency to let his heart rule his head. He hits people on the chin and they go over, which gets people watching - and if he has to slug, he can slug.

Joshua won't get ahead of himself: he's already turned down offers to turn pro, and won't be looking past the Olympic final. Comparisons to Lennox Lewis, who won gold for Canada in 1988, are premature - but I think he can be shaped into the Lewis mould. And he has the one ingredient that Lennox had, and perhaps Audley Harrison lost along the way: hunger. Lewis, remember, came up short at his first Olympics in 1984.

Light-welterweight Tom Stalker, a Commonwealth gold medallist, is another to watch. People inside the amateur boxing movement know that if he performs to his normal level, he will take home a gold. Like Joshua, he lost in the World Championship final last year - but it was close. Tom, 'The Talker', is rated No. 1 in the world.

People will be looking out for middleweight Anthony Ogogo, the good-looking kid from the Subway advert. But he is an outsider - and he knows it. He could start as underdog for every one of his fights. He was the last boxer to qualify and one year ago he looked out of the running.

He'll take heart from James DeGale, who won gold in Beijing after being given no chance. He had world, Olympic and European champions on his side of the draw, and one guy who had beaten him four times. In effect, he may as well have not bothered to go to Beijing - but he won. Ogogo can look at DeGale and find inspiration. It is easy to forget just how brilliant DeGale was.

I knew that a lot of the guys from the 2008 crop were going to go pro after the Games, but this time I'm not as convinced. Look at Stalker: he is 28 now, and has a real chance to win two Olympic golds in his career - and what a life that would be. He won't be short of money or adulation if he achieves that. It's possible that Stalker will always be a better amateur than professional.

If you look at the amateurs who flipped over following 2008, then David Price has done well from it, as has DeGale. The other five are in the mix, at various stages in their careers. If some of the guys from the last Olympics had stayed amateur, and carried on with that funding, and that lifestyle, would they have been better off? Maybe. They would all have been going to London looking at gold, that is for sure.

Because the forecast for medals is good, I expect the boxing coverage to be pushed from the very start. I have a feeling that the boxing team could become an outside bet for Team of the Games. We're used to the cyclist and rowers winning, not so much the boxers. This time, we'd better get used to it because the system in place has created a brilliant squad. Robert McCracken, the GB coach, can expect glory and then a visit to the Palace.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Steve Bunce Close
Steve Bunce has been ringside in Las Vegas over 50 times, he has been at five Olympics and has been writing about boxing for over 25 years for a variety of national newspapers in Britain, including four which folded! It is possible that his face and voice have appeared on over 60 channels worldwide in a variety of languages - his first novel The Fixer was published in 2010 to no acclaim; amazingly it has been shortlisted for Sports Book of the Year.