alt BRITAIN will be such a major boxing power by the time of the 2012 Olympics that they will beat Cuba in the medals table, it was predicted today by head coach Terry Edwards.


The prediction was made by Edwards in an interview published today in the Evening Standard.


Edwards said: "In 2012 I believe that GB will be the new Cuba.


"I promise you that by then our boxers will finish higher in the medal table than Cuba's."


Cuba are the undisputed heavyweight champions of Olympics boxing, claiming five of the 11 available gold medals at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.


That took their overall total to 32 since 1972.


Edwards has already overseen a £4.66 million programme, funded by the Government agency UK Sport, which last year produced Britain's first-ever world amateur champion when Birmingham's Frankie Gavin won the lightweight title in Chicago (pictured).


That guaranteed Gavin a place in this year's Olympics in Beijing where he will be joined by Bradley Saunders, the world light-welter bronze medallist, and bantamweight Joe Murray and light-heavyweight Tony Jeffries, whose performances in Chicago also earned them automatic places in the Games.


In Sydney 2000 Britain sent only two representatives, including Audley Harrison, who claimed the super-heavyweight gold medal, and in Athens only one, Amir Khan, who won the silver medal.


They could be joined by mire British boxers following the penultimate European qualifying tournament for Beijing, which is currently taking place in Roseto degli Abruzzi in Italy.

There today, Billy Joe Saunders moved to within two wins of securing an Olympics place after a nailbiting 13-12 victory over Poland's Michal Starbala.
The Hoddesdon 18-year-old was trailing 8-4 at the end of the third round but rallied brilliantly.
Saunders, who will next face another awkward opponent in Georgia's Kakhaber Zhvania, said: "The Pole was tougher than I thought.
"He had been told to hit and grab but I stuck to my game plan and came through."
Edwards said: "I counted over 15 cautions from the referee to the Pole before he took his first two points away.
"But Billy Joe's attitude throughout was superb."
Meanwhile, another 18-year-old, Cavan bantamweight John Joe Nevin, outpointed Croatian southpaw Ahmeti Mirsad 23-8 to move closer to securing Ireland's second Olympic qualifying place.
Edwards' biggest barrier could be persuading his talented British youngsters to resist the opportunity of turning professional before the 2012 Olympics.
But he told the Evening Standard: "I believe the excitement surrounding 2012 will make most of them think about seriously about staying with us.
"We'll do very well in London."