There is an air of optimism surrounding the Jordan boxing scene these days.
Since the last Olympics when Ihab Darweesh became the first Jordanian to qualify in London, the sport has gone from strength to strength with two young fighters looking to make a name for themselves in Rio de Janeiro.
Hussein Ishaiash turns 21 on Saturday and he will have the honour of carrying the flag for Jordan at Friday’s Opening Ceremony in recognition of his qualification for the Olympics through the tough Asian tournament, where he won bronze.
Joining him in Brazil is the dynamic fighter Obada Al Kasbeh, 22, who, with Ishaiash, was one of four boxers to medal at the Asian Games two years ago. He came through the last-chance World Olympic Qualifiers by finishing fifth and appears to be peaking at the right time.
Overseeing their Rio bids is Algerian coach Azeddine Aggoune, a veteran of the international boxing scene who has helped amateur fighters win at the highest levels for more than three decades.
He is excited by what he has seen in Jordan and is confident that his two chargers will put on a good show in Rio de Janeiro next week.
“They are two very young, but very hungry fighters,” he said. “We take it one fight at a time but both are capable of doing well here providing they remain focussed.”
Ishaiash is currently ranked 10th in the world for the super heavy division while Al Kasbeh is just outside the world top 20 for his 64kg division. Rio has attracted all of the top names across the weight categories so it won’t be easy.
“They have nothing to lose,” said Aggoune. “They are both fearless and have trained exceptionally hard to be in the best shape possible. Hussein is relatively small for his division but we have concentrated on his speed which is his biggest asset. Obada is the sort of fighter who can change his style to win against any type of opponent. They are both very exciting fighters and now we know who we have drawn we can start planning accordingly.”
Ishaiash has been given a good start with a first round bye and will meet Romania’s Mihal Nistor, ranked eighth in Rio, in the last 16 on August 13. Prior to that, Al Kasbeh meets Canada’s unseeded Arthur Biyarslanov in his first round bout on August 11.
The Jordan Olympic Committee has worked closely with the boxers to help them prepare as best they can for Rio, and that included a training camp in Cuba where Aggoune says they were able to spar with boxers of “all styles and of all sizes”.
The future looks bright for boxing and with Aggoune saying that Jordan has the potential for a World Series Boxing franchise, which sees nations from across the world fight each other, the coach believes more boxers could qualify for Tokyo 2020.
“There is a lot of potential in Jordan and with the right investment and plan, we can see more fighters like Hussein and Obada appearing on the world stage with the very best.”
The two boxers are joined in Team Jordan’s Rio delegation by two swimmers and one athlete each for triathlon, judo, marathon and taekwondo.
Jordan’s action gets underway on Sunday with 17-year-old swimmer Khader Baqlah going in the pool for the 200m freestyle.