2012 boxing: Welcome, women!

Olympic boxing goes co-ed in 2012, with three women’s weight classes added. To keep the total numbers down, in accordance with the IOC’s present tactic of limiting the Summer Games’ size, they’ve cut one men’s weight class and reduced numbers in other classes so that the total number of boxers will barely change.

Adding women will be a tremendous help for the USA, whose men’s program is in rough shape. The only U.S. medalists from the 2008 Games and 2009 World Championships have gone pro.

So farewell to the featherweight class, though it seems a shame to lose a distinctive name while keeping “light welterweight” and the absurd “light flyweight.”

Then they pick up with lightweight (60), light welterweight (64), welterweight (69), middleweight (75), light heavyweight (81), heavyweight (91) and super heavyweight (big). I’ll convert this into pounds for the projections. One kg=2.2 pounds.

Boxing is one of the many sports with world championships in odd years. Men’s boxing, anyway. The women’s championships are in even years, and they’ll stay there through 2014 despite their inclusion in the Games. Aside from Worlds, fully global competition is sporadic. The best results we can use for now are the 2009 World Championships and the 2010 rankings, though the latter tends to reward fighters who have been active internationally (in other words, not Americans).

Quick reminder: Each weight class has two bronze medalists. They don’t make the semifinal losers fight again.

Oh, and they’re changing the scoring system again. No more real-time scoring, which is a little unfortunate for spectators but also will prevent the last minute of a fight from turning into a chase with the losing fighter pursuing the winning fighter around the ring. And it’ll add another level of uncertainty to a sport that already has many.

And if you really want to be confused, try sorting through results from the World Series of Boxing (WSB), designed to fill the gap between amateur and pro boxing. Some of the top American and international boxers have entered; some haven’t.

MEN

Light flyweight (108 lbs): For this class and flyweight, we’ll assume no one’s trying to cut a couple of kilograms and drop down. Might not be a safe assumption, of course, and we’ll need to do a reality check when we see Olympic qualifiers. Mongolia’s Serdamba Perevdorjin and China’s Zou Shiming have been sticking around for a while. Zou won the 2008 gold when Serdamba hurt his shoulder in the final. Serdamba came back and won the 2009 world title, while China’s Li Jiazhao took bronze in Zou’s absence. The other contenders from Worlds and the rankings: Russia’s David Ayrapetyan (silver, 2009), Armenia’s Hovhannes Danielyan (third, 2010 rankings), South Korea’s Shin Jong-Jun (bronze, 2009). Shockingly, no Cuban is ranked in the top 25.

2008: Zou Shiming (China), Serdamba Perevdorjin (Mongolia), Paddy Barnes (Ireland), Yampier Hernandez (Cuba).

Projection: Mongolia, China, Russia, Armenia.

Top Americans: Louis Byrd was named outstanding boxer at the 2010 U.S. Nationals, though he lost in the first round of the 2009 Worlds at flyweight. Miguel Cartagena won one bout at the 2009 Worlds and lost in the round of 32.

Flyweight (115): Cuban Yampier Hernandez has moved up from light flyweight, giving Cuba two active 2008 medalists in this class. Too bad only one can enter. Hernandez is ranked first; countryman Andry Laffita third. World champion McWilliams Arroyo (Puerto Rico) is second but has turned pro. Then we have a pair from Thailand, including 2008 gold medalist Somjit Jonghodor. Both bronze medalists from 2008 are still in the top 10.

2008: Somjit Jonghodor (Thailand), Andry Laffita (Cuba), Georgy Balakshin (Russia), Vincenzo Picardi (Italy).

Projection: Cuba, Thailand, Russia, Italy.

Top Americans: Rau’shee Warren is the 2007 world champion and is still ranked at this class, though he fought at bantamweight in 2009 and didn’t make the team for Worlds. He’s bidding for his third Olympic team and is 3-0 at bantamweight in WSB action.

Bantamweight (123.5): Not much is changing here. Three of the top four in the world rankings are 2008 medalists; the other is world champion Detelin Dalakliev of Bulgaria. Cuba’s Yankiel Leon is ranked #1, following up his 2008 silver with 2009 bronze. The other 2009 medalists, Russia’s Sergey Vodopyanov (silver) and Uzbekistan’s Bahodirjon Sooltonov (bronze), also are in the top 10. One wild card here will be any featherweights who decide to cut down 1 kg rather than bulk up.

2008: Enkhbatan Badar-Uugan (Mongolia), Yankiel Leon (Cuba), Bruno Julie (Mauritius), Veaceslav Gojan (Moldova).

Projection: Cuba, Bulgaria, Mongolia, Mauritius.

Top Americans: Joseph Diaz Jr. is the U.S. champion. Jesus Magdaleno won one bout at 2009 Worlds and went pro.

Lightweight (132): Could be a free-for-all with all the featherweights who decide weight-cutting is no longer necessary. That includes perhaps the most dominant amateur boxer in the world — Ukraine’s Vasyl Lomachenko, the Olympic and world champion who is staying in the amateur ranks until his “body is fully formed.” That decision probably rules out a cut to bantamweight. Maybe someone can challenge him at a heavier weight — his 2009 world championship scores were 16-2, 15-1, 8-2, 12-1, 12-1. The next three in the rankings also medaled in 2009: Mexico’s Oscar Valdez, Uzbekistan’s Bahodirjon Sultonov and Russia’s Sergey Vodopiyanov.

At lightweight, Italy’s Domenico Valentino also cut through the 2009 World Championship field, dispatching top-ranked Cuban Idel Torriente in the quarterfinals. Valentino ranks second, then another Cuban, then Turkmenistan’s Serdar Hudayberdiev, then two Russians (including 2007 champ and 2009 bronze medalist Albert Seminov), then 2009 runner-up Jose Pedraza (Puerto Rico).

2008 featherweight: Vasyl Lomachenko (Ukraine), Khedafi Djelkir (France), Yakup Kılıç (Turkey), Shahin Imranov (Azerbaijan).

2008 lightweight: Aleksei Tishchenko (Russia), Daouda Sow (France), Hrachik Javakhyan (Armenia), Yordenis Ugas (Cuba).

Projection: Ukraine, Italy, Russia, Cuba.

Top Americans: U.S. lightweight champion Jose Ramirez made his international debut with a close 11-9 loss to Valentino. Raynell Williams is 2-1 in WSB. Kevin Rivers won two featherweight bouts at 2009 Worlds, reaching the round of 16, but he’s no longer listed at USA Boxing’s site, likely signaling a move to the pros. Duran Caferro was the U.S. lightweight in 2009, losing his first bout.

Light welterweight (141): This class featured a good old-fashioned USA-Cuba showdown at the 2009 Worlds. Top-ranked Roniel Iglesias beat Frankie Gomez, ending a stellar run for the American that featured several lopsided decisions, one stoppage and a close semifinal win over Hungary’s second-ranked Gyula Kate. Mongolia’s Uranchimegiin Mönkh-Erdene took bronze and ranks third.

2008: Manuel Felix Diaz (Dominican Republic), Manus Boonjumnong (Thailand), Roniel Iglesias (Cuba), Alexis Vastine (France).

Projection: Cuba, Hungary, Thailand, Mongolia.

Top Americans: Gomez has gone pro. Pedro Sosa is the U.S. champion.

Welterweight (152): Three fighters have pulled away in the rankings — 2009 bronze medalist and two-time world champ Serik Sapiyez (Kazakhstan), 2009 champion Jack Culpay-Keth (Germany), Carlos Banteux (Cuba). Bronze medalist Botirjon Mahmudov (Uzbekistan) is fourth, while silver medalist Andrey Zamkovoy (Russia) is farther down the list.

2008: Bakhyt Sarsekbayev (Kazakhstan), Carlos Banteux (Cuba), Hanati Silamu (China), Kim Jung-Joo (South Korea).

Projection: Kazakhstan, Germany, Cuba, Russia.

Top Americans: U.S. champion Errol Spence had rotten luck in 2009, facing Banteux first.

Middleweight (165): Uzbekistan’s Abbos Atoev upset top-ranked Indian Vijender Kumar in the 2009 semifinals and beat Armenia’s Andranik Habokyan for the title. Venezuela’s Alfonso Blanco took the other bronze. Cuba’s Emilio Correa is ranked second despite biting Britain’s James DeGale in the 2008 final, prompting the classic Daily Mail headline “Boxer DeGale devours hungry Cuban to taste gold for Britain.” DeGale, though, won’t be defending his title on his home soil, having turned pro.

2008: James DeGale (Britain), Emilio Correa (Cuba), Darren Sutherland (Ireland), Vijender Kumar (India).

Projection: India, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Armenia.

Top Americans: U.S. champion Luis Arias is 28th. Russell Lamour is 3-1 in WSB; Terrell Gausha, who was one-and-done in 2009, is 3-2.

Light heavyweight (178): If your eyes are glazing over from the lengthy names in this sport, you won’t like this: France’s Abdelkader Beterbiyev surprisingly outperformed top-ranked Algerian Abdelhafid Benchabla in the 2009 Worlds. They didn’t face off head to head, but Abdelkader made the semis while Abdelhafid only reached the third round. Abdelhafid (Algeria) is still ranked third behind Uzbekistan’s Eishod Rasulov and Russia’s Artur Beterbiev, who finished 2-1 in the 2009 Worlds. Cuba’s Jose Larduet took bronze and ranks fourth, while Ireland’s Kenny Egan, widely believed to be the victim of home-country judging in the 2008 final, gives the British Isles a contender. Gold medalist Zhang Xiaoping is still ranked but didn’t appear in the 2009 Worlds.

2008: Zhang Xiaoping (China), Kenny Egan (Ireland), Tony Jeffries (Britain), Yerkebulan Shynaliyev (Kazakhstan).

Projection: Uzbekistan, Russia, Cuba, Ireland.

Top Americans: Jeffrey Spencer is the U.S. champion. Sijuola Shabazz is 2-2 in WSB. Robert Brant was one-and-done in 2009.

Heavyweight (201): A rare bright spot for the USA in 2008, with Deontay Wilder taking the team’s lone medal. Wilder has, of course, gone pro. Unseeded Russian Egor Mekhontsev made his way through the 2009 bracket and obliterated top-seeded Cuban Osmay Acosta 12-2 in the final. Acosta is still ranked first, ahead of 2009 semifinalist Oleksandr Usyk (Uzbekistan), Mekhontsev, 2009 semifinalist John M’Bumba (France) and 2008 silver medalist Clemente Russo (Italy).

2008: Rakhim Chakkhiev (Russia), Clemente Russo (Italy), Osmay Acosta (Cuba), Deontay Wilder (USA).

Projection: Russia, Cuba, Uzbekistan, France.

Top Americans: Nick Kisner has gone pro. Steve Geffard is the U.S. champion. Donovan Dennis is 2-1 in WSB. Jordan Shimmell ran straight into M’Bumba in 2009.

Super heavyweight (+201): He is the real-life Italian stallion. Roberto Cammarelle has built up from his 2004 bronze medal to win the last two world titles and the 2008 gold medal, barely challenged along the way. China’s Zhang Zhilei followed up his 2008 silver at home with 2009 bronze, falling to Ukraine’s Roman Kapitanenko in the semis. Viktar Zuyeu (Belarus) took the other bronze, while Bulgaria’s Kubrat Pulev is ranked third despite the misfortune of being paired with Cammarelle in the first round in 2009. That’s five of the first seven in the rankings; the other two are Cuban.

2008: Roberto Cammarelle (Italy), Zhang Zhilei (China), Vyacheslav Glazkov (Ukraine), David Price (Britain)

Projection: Italy, China, Ukraine, Belarus.

Top Americans: Joey Dawejko has gone pro. Lenroy Thompson is the U.S. champion and is 2-1 in WSB action. The USA had another brutal draw in 2009, with Michael Hunter facing Cammarelle.

WOMEN

The World Championships were last held in 2010, so the good news is that we have recent results to compare. The bad news is that those championships had 10 weight classes. The Olympics will have three. Because we have no Olympic results in the past, each class will include relevant results from 2010.

Flyweight (112 lbs./51 kg): India’s Mary Kom has won five straight world titles, most recently at 48 kg.

2010 light flyweight (48): Mary Kom (India), Steluta Duta (Romania), Nazgul Boranbayeva (Kazakhstan), Alice Kate Aparri (Philippines).

2010 flyweight (51): Cancan Ren (China), Nicola Adams (England), Tetyana Kob (Ukraine), Hanne Makinen (Finland).

2010 bantamweight (54): Elena Savelyeva (Russia), Hye Song Kim (North Korea), Csilla Nemedi-Varga (Hungary), Karolina Michalczuk (Poland).

Projection: India, China, Poland, Ukraine.

Top Americans: Marlen Esparza is a 2006 bronze medalist at 48 kg. Bantamweight Lauren Fisher was named top women’s boxer in the 2010 U.S. Championships.

Lightweight (132/60): Ireland’s Katie Taylor is a three-time world champion and two-time women’s boxer of the year. She might have a bit of support in London.

2010 featherweight (57): Kum Ju Yun (North Korea), Yanzi Yang (China), Tassamalee Thongjan (Thailand), Rim Jouini (Tunisia).

2010 lightweight (60): Katie Taylor (Ireland), Cheng Dong (China), Queen Underwood (USA), Karolina Graczyk (Poland).

2010 light welterweight (64): Gulsum Tatar (Turkey), Vera Slugina (Russia), Klara Svensson (Sweden), Cashmere Jackson (USA).

Projection: Ireland, North Korea, USA, China.

Top Americans: Underwood and Jackson are the obvious choices.

Middleweight (165/75): We’ll assume no one is making the cut from super heavyweight (81+ kg) to this class. Canadian Mary Spencer won twice at 66 kg, then started dropping when she heard an Olympic weight class might be lower. But she can’t make it to 60 kg, so she’ll fight at this class and come in light. (A good NYT story by Aimee Berg has more on fitting into weight classes.)

2010 welterweight (69): Andrecia Wasson (USA), Savannah Marshall (England), Ting Ting Yang (China), Marichelle Jong (Netherlands).

2010 middleweight (75): Mary Spencer (Canada), Jinzi Li (China), Liliya Durnyeva (Ukraine), Maria Kovacs (Hungary).

2010 heavyweight (80): Roseli Amaral Feitosa (Brazil), Marina Volnova (Kazakhstan), Timea Nagy (Hungary), Yanrui Wang (China).

Projection: Canada, China, USA, Hungary.

Top Americans: Wasson will turn 20 the summer of the Games.

 

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