Super heavyweight (91kg+/200.6lb+),Olympic boxing’s glamour division, debuts at London 2012 Wednesday. Though the division was only split from heavyweight (91kg/200.6lb) in 1984, it would have been the home of Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman and Teofilo Stevenson.
In London it will be the division to watch, with a three way rivalry between three very different men, pictured above: England’s Anthony Joshua (left), just 22, a powerful, flashy hometown fighter who exploded out of nowhere to win the silver medal at the 2011 World Championships in Azerbaijan; Magomedrasul Majidov (right), a fearsome puncher and the man who beat Joshua by a point to take the gold in front of his home crowd; And Italy’s Roberto Cammerelle (middle), the gold medallist from Beijing, a sharp, well-schooled southpaw veteran looking forward to his career as a policeman after the games.
Despite being the favourite to take gold in many quarters, Anthony Joshua is a relative newcomer to the world of elite amateur boxing. While Joshua had been impressive on the British domestic amateur scene, winning the ABA title in his eighteenth fight, it would be fair to say that his arrival on the international scene came out of the blue. Ranked a lowly 49th by AIBA heading into the 2011 World Championships, the Londoner surprised everyone but himself by going all the way to the final and bundling out defending champ Cammarelle on the way. The boxing writer’s cliché “controversial” has been used to describe his one point loss to Magomedrasul Majidov in war in front of an Azeri crowd.
Joshua seems to have it all. He’s tall, powerful and handsome. Most of all, the Finchley lad is athletic. He reportedly ran the 100m in 11 seconds as a 15-year-old. Joshua’s educated jab belies his inclination to stand in the trenches and trade punches. He showcased that willingness throughout the World Championships, proving at the same time that he possesses a world class chin.
In the same year he won silver at the World Championships, Joshua was convicted of possessing cannabis with intent to supply. Today he describes that as a wakeup call. And he better be awake, because he has a very tough draw in the first round, Cuba’s Erislandy Savon Cotilla.
Savon Cotilla, the nephew of three time gold medalist Felix Savon, is one of the top super heavyweights in the world. Unlike Joshua, the Cuban is not blessed with a great chin or stopping power. But he can box, and considering the sometimes opaque amateur scoring system, he could hand the hometown hero a bitterly disappointing first round loss.
On the other side of the draw from Joshua sit Majidov and Cammarelle. Their side of the bracket is undeniably tougher and they appear destined to clash in the semifinals, with the winner most likely facing the Englishman in the gold medal match.
Cammarelle, a player at the high levels of amateur boxing for a decade, will being looking to close out his sporting career on a high. Two gold medals in the trophy cabinet would make him one of the greatest amateurs of all time, mentioned in the same breath as Stevenson, Lazslo Papp and Felix Savon.
The discipline, power and style of Cammarelle have long left observers scratching their heads as to why he never turned professional. The answer lies in the Italian’s national pride (and perhaps the stipend the Italian government pays him, rumoured to be six figures in Euros). While nominally an officer in the Polizia di Stato (and looking forward to protecting and serving after his retirement) Cammarelle has spent his career, for all intents and purposes, as a professional amateur.
At 6’3”, Cammarelle is relatively short for a super heavy and works behind a high guard and consistent southpaw jab. Not that he’s just a point scorer, possessing a lethal right hook and straight left. These days he may have lost a step, getting rocked by Joshua at the worlds last year. Then again, that loss was only by two points and his status as a 5-1 outsider probably underestimates his chances. In the first round he should slip past 2011 Pan American Games champion Italo Perrea of Ecuador, but Cammarelle will have to be wary of the teenager’s power.
The final piece of the puzzle is the world champion, Majidov. I’m not entirely sure why Azerbaijan produces such big punchers, but they do. The punching power gene is strong in his family, with undefeated cousin (and Majidov’s inspiration for taking up boxing) Magomed Abdusalamov gracing U.S. screens recently with a 2nd round knockout of Maurice Byarm on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights. Maybe it’s just guys called Magomed.
The 25-year-old Azeri stalks opponents behind a relatively loose guard, with his enormity and wild hooks partially concealing well drilled footwork and accuracy. Majidov believes in his punch resistance, too, opting to trade with Joshua at the world championships even when he knew the Brit packed dynamite in both hands.
Considering the draw, the most likely scenario in London is a Cammarelle vs. Majidov semifinal with the winner facing Joshua for the gold. Cammarelle won’t be there to hit for the world champion like Joshua was in 2011 and he could win the fight with crisp, effective counterpunching. On the other hand, if he’s getting old and tired, then Majidov will overwhelm him.
What happens in the super heavyweight gold medal match is anyone’s guess. Cammarelle’s veteran savvy could shine through, Majidov can hurt and stop anyone and who knows what improvements young Joshua has made in a year. That’s why it’s the division to watch.