Rarely has a Kazakhstani Olympic victory left Zhanibek Alimkhanuly dejected. As a child, Alimkhanuly had trained alongside his compatriot Kamran Shakhsuvarly. But in the Rio middleweight quarterfinal, they were in opposite sides of the ring. Shakhsuvarly had been granted Azerbaijani citizenship in 2013, and he won a contentious decision against Alimkhanuly for his new nation.
Alimkhanuly may left Rio empty-handed, but he remains one of the finest prospects in amateur boxing. The powerful southpaw gave a glimpse of his talent in the previous round when he demolished Team GB medal hope Anthony Fowler, sending the Scouser sprawling on the canvas after a peach of a left hook in the second round.
In 2013, Alimkhanuly won gold at the World Championships in his native Kazaksthan, beating emerging Irish star Jason Quigley in the final. The strong southpaw needs to sharpen his defence and question marks remain on his stamina, but he combines power and poise in a style that looks ready-made for the professional ranks.
The Croatian super heavyweight won bronze in Rio after a controversial loss to eventual gold-medalist Tony Yoka. While he left the Olympics disappointed, he had already demonstrated the unusual talents that had taken him to gold at the European Championships in 2015.
The 24-year-old was responsible for the cancellation of the David Haye-Tyson Fury fight in 2013, after a sparring session ended with Haye requiring stitches to a cut above his eye. It didn’t damage. He was promptly recruited as a sparring partner by Kubrat Pulev before he challenged Wladimir Klitschko for the heavyweight championship of the world.
Hrgović’s lengthy amateur career prepared him well for sparring elite professionals. In 2010, he won the AIBA Youth World Boxing Championships, beating Joseph Parker and Yoka on the way to the title. Later that year he also claimed gold at the Youth Olympic Games. The Croat is known for his heavy-hands, solid chin, and rapid combination-punching, a scarce commodity for a modern super-heavyweight.
López won middleweight gold in Rio to match the medal he won at the World Championships the previous year and confirm his status as a superstar of the sport.
The 23-year-old didn’t lose a round on his route to the title and has the technique and athleticism to dominate the amateur game for another decade. His opponent in the final was the same fearsome puncher as it had been in the World Championships the previous year. He had been no match for López in Doha, and neither was he in Rio, outfought and out-thought in each of the three rounds.
López predominately fights out of a southpaw stance, like so many Cubans, but he can also switch to orthodox. López is a complete fighter from either stance, blending technical brilliance with power, speed, and versatility.
Uzbekhistan won just a single gold medal at thhe London 2012 Games. In Rio, the central Asian nation topped the medal table with seven. Arguably most impressive of all their boxers was flyweight gold-medallist Shakhobidin Zoirov.
Zoirov faced two-time World Champion Misha Aloyan in the final. The Uzbekistani won every round against the accomplished Russian, despite receiving a deep cut early in the bout. The Olympic gold was his second major medal, following a silver from the Asian Games in 2014.
Zoirov, 23, packs immense talent into an awkward style. He moves unpredictably, drops his hands, and squares up in front of his opponent. It’s as fascinating to watch, as it is frustrating to fight. His prospects in the amateur game remain brighter than in the pros, so expect to see him competing for more medals in the years to come.
In a tournament dogged by disputed decisions, the loss of Vasily Levit to Evgeny Tischenko in the heavyweight final was the most dubious of them all. Levit won a silver medal in Rio, but to almost every neutral observer it should have been gold. Fans in the arena booed Tischenko when he received his gold medal during the medal ceremony.
In the Olympics semi-final bout, the Kazakhstani avenged his loss to Cuban star Erislandy Savon from the 2015 World Series of Boxing (WSB) final. It was his only defeat in 15 WSB fights. His Olympic silver is his second medal from an international tournament following his gold from the Asian Championships in 2009.
Levit is yet to announce a professional run. At 28, time isn’t on his side. But his aggression and punching power make for a fan-friendly style that has already attracted the attention of billionaire Russian promoter Andrei Ryabinsky.
While allegations of corruption have surrounded the Uzbekistan boxing team since the appointment of alleged heroin kingpin Gafur Rakhimov as vice-president of AIBA, the talent pool that brought them to the top of the Olympics medal table is undeniable. At just 20-years-old, silver medalist Bektemir Melikuziev could be the best prospect of them all.
The Uzbekistani prodigy was seeded second unfortunate to drop the first round of the final bout but was outfoxed for the remainder of the fight by the imperious Arlen López, who also pipped him to gold at the 2015 World Championships.
Melikuziev is a pressure-fighting powerhouse who has already proved capable of competing with the best fighters in the sport. His fan-friendly style looks well suited to the pro game, but his development may be better served in the amateur code for now.