Few sports made an impact on 2014 quite like boxing.
In a year when Jordan sporting success was relatively limited compared to previous years, it was boxing that exploded onto the international scene following an incredible showing at the Asian Games in Incheon.
Two bronze and a silver heralded Jordan’s arrival on the continental scene, but more importantly the event was a turning point for boxing which has lived in the shadows of mass participation sports like taekwondo, football and basketball in Jordan.
"Those medals were the result of many years of hard work put in not just by the boxers, but by a lot of people in and around the federation,” said Taha Mahjoub, Secretary General of the Jordan Amateur Boxing Association (JABA), who shared the Association’s bigger picture with www.joc.jo.
"It is part of a journey for boxing. We are very ambitious and our ambitions are much more than just qualifying to the Rio Games, we are looking to achieve medals at this great event.”
Jordan is still searching for its first Olympic medal of any colour, and Taha’s confidence certainly comes as a breath of hope for sport here in general. A trip to JABA’s headquarters underlined why he is feeling so positive.
Dozens of boxers of all ages are now taking the sport seriously. Three boxers are ranked in the world’s top 10 for their weights and they are rubbing shoulders daily with a number of other Jordanians desperate to join them on the world stage.
The pursuit for Rio qualification has drawn support from the Jordan Olympic Committee who are working closely with JABA to finance their plans, and the sport is responding with an ambitious roadmap to keep the champion production line running.
"JABA has a long-term plan to improve the sport in Jordan,” explained Taha. "We are focusing on a number of areas from national team preparation to improving coaches through courses to ensure our boxers at all ages and levels are improving. We also hope to revive the women’s national team this year to participate at upcoming competitions.”
JABA also has an eye on the professional game so that rewards can come to boxers and coaches who have made the long slog through the amateur ranks and brought success to their country.
But, importantly, it intends to capitalize on its current wave of popularity brought by those Incheon medals by welcoming greater numbers to the sport. This has been done through a new training centre for beginners to learn about boxing and to develop their skills.
Taha explained that as many as seven boxers currently have their sights on Rio and they will all follow an extensive programme this year in the quest for qualification.
After our visit to the Association, it was clear that all that hard work deserves to hear the Samba beat in the summer of 2016.
Ones to watch:
Obadah Al Kesbeh: bronze at Asian Games and ranked seven in the world for 60kg
Ehab Al Darweesh: bronze at Asian Games and qualifier to London Olympics. Ranked seven in the world for 91kg
Odai Al Hindawi: silver at Asian Games and ranked eight in the world for 75kg
Mohammad Al Asi: ranked 15 in the world for 69kg
Mohammad Al Wadi: ranked 21 in the world for 56kg
Hussein Oshaiash: ranked 24 in the world for 91kg
Saif Quraish: ranked 32 in the world for 64kg