With the draw completed on Friday, the stage is set for Olympic boxing to begin in London. In our first preview and guide we’ll take a look at the first round of the men’s competition, beginning on Saturday afternoon, London time. It all starts out with a bantamweight match-up between Team USA’s Joseph Diaz, Jr. and Ukraine’s Pavlo Ishchenko. After that there are a dizzying number of matches, so we’ll just give you the highlights and other notes.
(Team USA bantamweight Joseph Diaz, Jr., left, in action)
There haven’t been too many complaints about the draw compared to previous Olympics, though it’s always hard in smaller divisions like heavy, super heavy and the three women’s brackets. Some top fighters, like Brazilian junior welterweight Everton Dos Santos Lopes, will have very tough fights in the round of 16, but that’s just the way it is I guess. If only the top seeds fought then we’d be watching “the round of four” this weekend, and that wouldn’t be any fun.
It’s called the round of 32, but there aren’t actually 32 boxers in each division. Because of that, the top seeds have byes in the first round. There are two sessions of boxing each day, one in the afternoon and the other in the evening. Each session features two weight classes. Check your local providers for TV times. In the USA, CNBC will air both sessions of boxing live every day, from 8:30-11:30 a.m. Eastern and 3:30-6:30 p.m. Now let’s get to it.
Bantamweight – 56kg/123.4lb – 28 July
As mentioned, the bantamweight schedule starts with Joseph Diaz Jr. vs. Pavlo Ishchenko. Diaz has a very good chance against the Ukrainian but would face Cuban favourite Lazaro Alvarez, who has a bye, in the next round. Ireland’s John Joe Nevin has an easy match against Denmark’s Dennis Ceylan while other favourites, Tajikistan’s Anvar Yunusov, Azerbaijan’s Magomed Abdulhamidov and Team GB’s Luke Campbell have byes.
Middleweight – 75kg/165.3lb – 28 July
Of all the men’s boxing divisions, middleweight is probably the most open. India have a medal hope with Vijender Singh, who faces Danabek Suzhanov of Kazakhstan in what could be a tough match up. The winner of that bout will face the winner of the fight between Team USA’s Terrell Gausha and Armenia’s Andranik Hakobyan. Hakobyan is much more experienced than the American, having taken Silver at the Worlds last year, but Gausha has power and youth on his side. Great Britain’s Anthony Ogogo has an easy draw against the Dominican Republic’s Junior Castillo. Top seeds Ryoto Murata and Levgen Khytrov have byes.
Lightweight – 60kg/132.2lb – 29 July
Not much to report here. Top seeds Vasyl Lomachenko and Yasnier Toledo have byes and then relatively easy matches in the second round. Since he should win his first rounder against Brazil’s Robson Conceicao, England’s Josh Taylor will have the misfortune of meeting Italy’s Domenico Valentino in the second round. The USA’s Jose Ramirez is a dark horse with a clear path to the quarter finals if he beats France’s Rachid Azzedine.
Welterweight – 69kg/152.1 – 29 July
Welterweight is another fairly open division, though World Championships gold medallist Taras Sheleystuk from Ukraine is a clear favourite for gold. Russia’s Andrey Zamkovoy seems to have a relatively easy match with China’s Qion Mai Maititeursen, setting up an intriguing second round clash with up and coming Irishman Adam Nolan, who faces Ecuador’s Carlos Sanchez Estacio. The pick of the first round fights might be Team USA slickster Errol Spence against Brazil’s Myke Ribeiro de Carvalho for the right to take on Indian medal hope Krishnan Vikas in the round of 16.
Flyweight – 52kg/114.6lb – 30 July
With six byes, the first round at flyweight seems to be a little bit of a competition between boxers who will exit in the next round. Of the boxers actually fighting, I’d say that only Azerbaijan’s Elvin Mamishzada is a medal chance. He’s got an easy one against Mongolia’s Tugstogt Nyambayar.
Light Heavyweight – 81kg/178.5lb – 30 July
Another division with six byes, light heavyweight has some interesting fights in the first round nonetheless. The pick has to be Australian medal favourite Damien Hooper taking on the USA’s Marcus Brown in the afternoon session. Brown can’t punch like Hooper, but both men are quality tactical boxers. The winner will have a tough challenge in front of them in the round of 16 in the form of Russia’s Eghor Mekhontcev.
Light Flyweight – 49kg/108lb – 31 July
Zou Shiming is the king at light fly, being the defending Olympic and World Champion. The winner of the fight between Australian redhead Billy Ward and Cuba’s Yosbany Veitia Soto (almost certainly the Cuban) will face him in the round of 16. Puerto Rico’s Jantony Marcano might have been a dark horse with a relatively easy one against Ghana’s Sulemanu Tetteh, but would be faced with a big ask against Russian team captain David Ayrapetyan next time out. Expect Thailand’s Kaeo Pongprayoon and Bulgaria’s Aleksandar Aleksandrov to stroll through their first round opponents.
Light Welterweight – 64kg/141lb – 31 July
Not much to report here, with Ukrainian and Brazilian favourites Denys Berinchyk and Everton Dos Santos Lopes with byes on either side of the draw. Lopes will likely face 2009 world champion, Cuba’s Rosniel Iglesias Sotolongo, in the next round, which seems a bit unfair. Two outside chances meet in the first round with Sweden’s Anthony Yigit and Puerto Rico’s Francisco Ramirez fighting for the right to take on the aforementioned Berinchyk. How the winner deals with backing up in such a high pressure competition will be key for their chances of an upset. The most exciting match-up might be Australia’s Jeff Horn and Zambia’s Gilbert Choombe.
Heavyweight – 91kg/200.6lb – 1 August
It’s a tough draw at heavyweight, a small division with only one bye. Australia’s Jai Opetaia will have his hands full with Azerbaijan’s Teymur Mammadov, as will the USA’s Michael Hunter with Russia’s Artur Beterbiyev. A lot of fighters at heavyweight are worth watching just for the excitement factor. Algeria’s Chouaib Bouloudinats and Belarus’ Siarhei Karneyeu are locks for first round KO victories against their respective Argentine and Ecuadorian foes.
Super Heavyweight – 91kg+/200.6lb+ – 1 August
There are no byes at super heavy, amateur boxing’s glamour division, which sets up some very interesting first round clashes. Hometown hero and medal favourite Anthony Joshua faces Cuba’s Erislandy Savon Cotilla in the very first round. Cotilla is the nephew of Cuban legend and three time gold medallist Felix Savon. In many ways he’s a mirror image of Joshua. Luckily for the hometown fans the Englishman is blessed with a better chin, better power and is all round more athletic, so he should pull through. The other fun fight will be Italy’s defending champion Roberto Cammarelle against Ecuadorian Pan-Am Games gold medallist Italo Perea Castillo. The veteran southpaw should, in theory, have the smarts and savvy to handle the teenage South American. But he better not sleep on Perea Castillo because the boy can crack. With two tough match ups early in the draw, the quarter finals should actually be easier for the super heavyweight favourites than the first round.