London 2012 - McCracken delight at boxing talent
Rob McCracken has high hopes for Great Britain's boxing team at next year's Olympics after formally confirming the first five names on his squad.
Flyweight Andrew Selby, bantamweight Luke Campbell, light welterweight Tom Stalker, welterweight Fred Evans and super heavyweight Anthony Joshua all achieved the qualifying standard with their performances at the recent World Championships in Baku.
However, they have now been formally selected by the British Olympic Association, taking next year's team, which is expected to total 550, to 16 following the confirmation of 11 sailors in September.
Great Britain enjoyed their best boxing results since 1956 at the Beijing Olympics with James DeGale winning middleweight gold and Tony Jefferies and David Price claiming bronzes at light heavyweight and super heavyweight respectively.
But the mastermind of those results, coach Terry Edwards, was then controversially axed and replaced by Kevin Hickey, who quit just eight months into the job complaining about his excessive workload.
McCracken, who currently will not be allowed in the corner for Olympic fights because of his work with pro fighter Carl Froch, assumed control two years ago and has won praise for his attention to detail, guiding his charges to 16 medals at European and World level.
British fighters won four medals at the recent World Championships, two silver and two bronzes, Nicola Adams won the flyweight title at the women's European Championships in Rotterdam and five Team GB boxers won gold at last weekend's Olympic test event.
"Since I took over as performance director, the GB Boxing squad has performed consistently well at major Championships," said McCracken.
"To secure five Olympic qualifiers at our first opportunity was very satisfying and a great achievement by the boxers who have all worked hard to secure this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to compete at a home Olympics.
"It is also the result of a lot of hard work by a whole team of people, most notably our coaches and the sports science team from the English Institute of Sport who support the boxers inside and outside of the gym, and I would like to thank all of them for their part in helping the boxers to qualify.
"The five boxers are all a credit to the squad and if they box to their full potential then every one of them has the talent and ability to do well and secure a medal."
There are still Olympic spots open at light flyweight, lightweight, middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight for men, which will be decided at next year's Olympic qualifier, while selection for the three women's categories of flyweight, lightweight and middleweight will be made after their World Championships in China next May.
While the other confirmed names have spent the last few weeks celebrating their selections, Welsh flyweight Selby needed to beat close friend Khalid Yafai in a tense best of three box-off after both achieved the qualifying standard.
But McCracken is brimming with optimism about the names selected, who all reached the last eight in their respective classes at the recent Worlds.
"Andrew is a wonderful natural talent," added McCracken.
"He has had an absolutely fantastic year, winning the European Championships and making the final of the Worlds, and if he continues to work hard and take that level of performance into next year then he has a great chance of doing well in the Olympics.
"Luke has gone through some ups and downs over the last three years and has shown real character to regain his best form, after a long time out with injury, and secure his place at the Olympics.
"His record over the last 18 months has been second-to-none and as long as he maintains his form he will be a strong contender to do well at 2012.”
"Tom is a top-class international athlete with a medal collection to prove it and Fred is a young man that has really come of age and is a great talent and possesses a maturity beyond his years in the ring and knows how to win.
"And we always knew we had something special on our hands with Anthony but his rate of progress this year, for someone who is still relatively inexperienced, has been absolutely fantastic.
"His performance at the World Championships in September was brilliant and as long as he continues to work hard in the gym, listen to the coaches and develop as a boxer then he has every chance of being a star in his hometown Olympics."