Olympic gold has traditionally been seen as a route to professional stardom. But for every Michael Spinks there’s been a Odlanier Solis, for every Cassius Clay a Rakhim Chakhiev. With an eye on the stars to come out of the upcoming Rio games, this list looks to rank those men who picked up gold in London 2012 and have since turned professional. Have they been worth their weight in gold?
- Vasyl Lomachenko 6-1(4 KOs) – Lightweight Gold Medalist
Lomchenko set the standard for any medallist wanting to take the quickest — and not the easiest — route to the top. He fought for world title in just his second fight but learnt a lesson in the wily ways of the pro game when Orlando Salido missed weight and then proceeded to bend and break many of the Queensberry rules to hand Lomachenko only his second loss in 401 professional and amateur fights.
Not one to lick his wounds, Lomachenko rebounded immediately for a fight for the same belt he had just fought for, clearly beating once-fancied Gary Russell, Jr. His three defences of that featherweight belt were frustratingly soft but he reminded us what he’s all about by stepping up in his last fight to junior lightweight and destroying Roman Martinez with a Knockout Of The Year contender.
- Anthony Joshua 17-0 (17 KOs) – Super Heavyweight Gold Medalist
If Lomachenko has been the boxing fan’s dream, Anthony Joshua has been the promoter’s, and with Eddie Hearn, he has written the blueprint for how to turn a gold medal into a marketing phenomenon. It helps that Joshua is in the heavyweight division and plays the corporate side of the game well, but he has done his part in the ring by looking like an action man every time he turns up to fight and knocking out every man he faces.
Look beyond the hype and his record is at least comparable if not favourable to most medallists in the modern era. Four years on from the London Olympics he has a wtitle belt and is comfortably beating fringe contenders such as Charles Martin, Dillian Whyte and Dominic Breazeale. Before criticising his development too much, have a look at who active Olympians such as James DeGale, Andre Ward, Wladimir Klitschko and Alexander Povetkin fought within four years of winning gold.
- Oleksandr Usyk 9-0 (9 KOs) – Heavyweight Gold Medalist
Some may rate Usyk and his dodgy haircut as having a higher ceiling than Joshua, but at the moment he has not fought consistently enough to have fought the level of opponent he should have by now. Arguably the man he beat in his Olympic quarterfinal, Artur Beterbiev, has progressed quicker down at light heavyweight with wins including demolition jobs on Tavoris Cloud and Gabriel Campillo.
Usyk’s activity is the likely reason for this speed of progression, as he has fought only nine times, tied for least out of anyone on this list. All this changes if he finally fights Krzysztof Glowacki. Win that fight well, and Usyk announces himself as a top dog in the division and possibly starts to be considered in the bottom end of pound-for-pound lists.
- Luke Campbell 13-1 (11 KOs) – Bantamweight Gold Medalist
A British hardcore’s favourite since he turned pro, Campbell flew under the radar of fellow medalist Joshua. But two things seemed to hinder his development. Firstly, his career was too strongly focussed for too long a time on a Hellacious Hull Showdown with Tommy Coyle, a sub-British-level fighter who Campbell should, and probably would, have been handling in the first few fights of his pro career.
The second issue was unfortunate family circumstances meaning Campbell was unable to commit fully to his boxing career for a period of time. These problems came to fruition when Campbell lost in December to Yvan Mendy, a bad setback considering Campbell’s career aspirations. Perhaps Campbell does not have quite enough punching power for world level, but he is a wonderfully classy operator, and his next fight against Argenis Mendez should tell us a lot about what he has taken on board since the Mendy loss.
- Zou Shiming 8-1 (2 KOs) – Light Flyweight Gold Medalist
Shiming was to ignite the explosion of the untapped Asian boxing market, with Bob Arum claiming a billion people would watch his debut. But the man who won his first Olympic medal in 2004 seems to have turned over too late in life to adapt to the new style, and lost clearly to fellow flyweight Amnat Ruenroeng. Anyone who has watched Shiming fight would agree that the less said about him the better. His best contribution in my opinion was his debut kickstarting a series of international fights in Macau, a few of which have been at good times for British viewers on a Saturday lunchtime. But if Asia is looking for their next star to come out of Rio, boxers that are past their prime and cannot punch would not be my starting suggestions.
- Ryota Murata 10-0 (7 KOs) – Middleweight Gold Medalist
Murata has won all his fights and won them well, but none of his 10 professional fights have been against anyone approaching world level. He is already 30 years old, so his slow development suggests Top Rank’s lack of belief in his talents. Unlike others on this list such as Usyk and Campbell, Murata’s next fight will not tell us anything new. He takes on the MC’s dream George Tahdooahnippah on the undercard of Terence Crawford-Viktor Postol. Time will prove whether Murata and/or Top Rank have the ambition to push on with his career, evidence thus far suggests they do not.
- Egor Mekhontsev 12-0 (8 KOs) – Light Heavyweight Gold Medalist
Bartlomiej Grafka, Egor Mekhontsev and Bronislav Kubin. Two of these names are Paul Smith’s most recent opponents, the other is an London gold medalist. Before reading this list could you honestly pick which was which? Top Rank has even spelled Mekhontsev’s name wrong on their website. His lack of notoriety may come from the fact that he has fought nobody of note and is still fighting eight-rounders four years on from Olympic gold. I don’t really know what there is to split Murata and Mekhontsev at this stage of their careers, and anyone who can be bothered to find out earns my respect. Their careers both seem destined to fade away into either early retirement, or the point where they become an opponent and their hard-won Olympic silverware is simply used as a marketing tool.
(LAS VEGAS: Vasyl Lomachenko prepares for his fight against Romulo Koasicha at the Thomas & Mack Center on November 7, 2015a; Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images)