Australian boxers pack-a-punch

OLYMPIC boxing coach Don Abnett says Australia will head to the London Olympics with more than just young gun Damien Hooper as a medal chance.

After watching the national amateur championship finals in Hobart yesterday, Abnett said title winners Luke Jackson (60kg, Tas), Jeff Horne (64kg, Qld) and Cameron Hammond (69kg, NSW) were all capable of springing upsets.

Hooper, who turned 20 yesterday, did not fight at the national titles as he qualified for the Olympics at last year's world championships, where he was beaten by one point by eventual winner Julio la Cruz of Cuba.

The world No.2 light heavyweight (81kg) from Queensland is considered a genuine chance of capturing Australia's first Olympic medal since 1988 but Abnett said others could not be discounted.

"The Olympic Games is a tough competition," Abnett said.

"Often the No.20 comes through and wins a medal."

Abnett will take a young team to the Games but said the sport's development programs in Australia were starting to pay dividends.

"We lost a lot of our very experienced athletes from Beijing," he said.

"In the last four years we've been rebuilding so it's a relatively young team.

"We've had some not bad results internationally in the last year.

"The nursery part of it is very good."

The national championship finals brought surprises in the 69kg division, with a victory to the talented but underdone Hammond, and in the 52kg where Tasmanian Jackson Woods thrilled his home crowd by outpointing Victoria's Andrew Maloney.

The national title winners progress to the Oceania championships in Canberra in March, where Australia is expected to qualify for London in eight of the nine divisions still up for grabs.

Likely Olympic team captain Jackson said it was always tough for Australia at the Games because of its distance from Europe and the Americas.

But he is backing his ability after controversially missing out on Beijing.

"On my day against a quality opponent I seem to lift," he said.



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