Are you ready to … land a few point-scoring punches?
Check the updated rankings, though they don’t always tell you the whole story. This is a really tricky sport to predict — luck of the draw will determine a lot beyond the obvious favorites.
Light flyweight (108 lbs.): This is the one weight class without an American. China’s Zou Shiming won the 2011 Worlds, proving his 2008 gold wasn’t just home-ring advantage. (I was in the boxing venue in Beijing — it got a little loud when the Chinese boxers came in.) Silver medalist and 2009 world champion Serdamba Perevdorjin (Mongolia) shared third in Worlds with Russia’s David Ayrapetyan, who took second in 2009. South Korea’s Shin Jong-Jun has a couple of World Championship podiums since the Olympics, and he leads the world rankings ahead of Zou. That’s a remarkably consistent group of four, even if Azerbaijan’s Salman Alizada and Cameroon’s Thomas Essomba are ahead of Ayrapetyan (fifth) and Serdamba (sixth) in the rankings. Projection was MGL-CHN-RUS-ARM; now China, Mongolia, Russia, South Korea
Flyweight (115): One of the best chances for a U.S. medal — Olympic vet Rau’shee Warren is the 2007 world champion and finished third in 2011. He lost to eventual champion Misha Aloian (Russia). The host nation has a great hope in Welshman Andrew Selby, who lost to Aloian but is ranked first. The other 2011 medalist was Uzbekistan’s Jasubek Latipov. Italy’s Vincenzo Picardi, who took bronze in 2008, is ranked third. The Thai and Cuban fighters so feared in the original picks haven’t been active. Was CUB-THA-RUS-ITA; now Russia, Britain, USA, Italy
Bantamweight (123.5): That bit in the original projections about “not much changing” in this class? Never mind. Bulgaria’s Detelin Dalakliev, the 2009 world champion, is still here but has fallen to seventh in the rankings after his quarterfinal ouster in the 2011 Worlds. Russia and Cuba have new representatives here — the latter, Lazaro Alvarez, is the 2011 world champion. He’s ranked second behind Tajikistan’s Anvar Yunusov. Mauritius fighter Bruno Julie won 2008 bronze and is still hanging around in the top 10. The host country will be behind world runner-up Luke Campbell, who’s ranked third. Across the Irish Sea, John Joe Nevin shared third with Yunusov in 2011. American Joseph Diaz Jr. reached the 2011 quarterfinals and is ranked 11th. Was CUB-BUL-MGL-MRI; now Cuba, Britain, Tajikistan, Ireland
Lightweight (132): One constant in boxing — Ukraine’s Vasyl Lomachenko, has 2008 gold from the now-defunct featherweight class and has gone on to world titles in 2009 (featherweight) and 2011 (lightweight). He’s not dominating the way he did at featherweight, and he’s ranked second in the class behind 2009 lightweight champion Domenico Valentino of Italy despite beating him in the 2011 semifinals. But that’s our clear 1-2.
Cuba’s Yasniel Toledo was the 2011 runner-up and is in a five-way tie for third in the rankings with fighters from Turkey, Algeria, Australia and Kazakhstan. Then ANOTHER Kazakh fighter, Gani Zhailauov, who shared third in 2011. The USA’s Jose Ramirez keeps getting drawn against the big guns in major tournaments, and he fares as well as anyone — maybe a little better. Was UKR-ITA-RUS-CUB; now Ukraine, Italy, Kazakhstan, Cuba
Light welterweight (141): Cuba’s Roniel Iglesias took bronze in Beijing and won the 2009 world title. In 2011, he lost in the first round. That may keep him out of the rankings, but we’re guessing one close loss doesn’t mean he’s suddenly over the hill, and his results in the American qualifier back up our theory. But the top four in the 2011 Worlds read like a soccer tournament — Brazil’s Everton Lopes, Ukraine’s Denys Berinchyk, England/Britain’s Tom Stalker and Italy’s Vincenzo Mangiacapre. The rankings: Stalker, Mongolia’s Uranchimegiin Mönkh-Erdene, Lopes and Mangiacapre. The U.S. entry is Jamel Herring. Was CUB-HUN-THA-MGL; now Britain, Cuba, Italy, Mongolia
Welterweight (152): Ukraine’s Taras Shelestyuk beat two-time world champ Serik Sapiyez (Kazakhstan) in the 2011 final. Lithuania’s Egidijus Kavaliaukas and India’s Krishan Vikas shared third. American Errol Spence made a nice run to the World quarterfinals before running into Sapiyez. Welsh fighter Freddie Evans won the 2011 European champion and is ranked second behind Shelestyuk despite this knockout loss in the 2011 World quarterfinals (the video has the strangest accompanying music ever). Was KAZ-GER-CUB-RUS; now Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Britain, Lithuania
Middleweight (165): Britain’s James DeGale won’t be defending his title on his home soil, having turned pro. No one else seems consistent. Evhen Khyrtov (Ukraine) has the world title and top ranking. Japan’s Ryota Murata, who shocked top seed Abbos Atoev (Uzbekistan) in the first round at Worlds, is second in each. Atoev isn’t ranked, even though he won the Asian qualifying tournament. American Terrell Gausha won the qualifying tournament for his continent. Look, we have no idea. Ask us when we see who shows up. At least the top two are credible picks. Was IND-UZB-VEN-ARM; now Ukraine, Japan, Uzbekistan, Ireland
Light heavyweight (178): Algerian Abdelhafid Benchabla won the World Series of Boxing championship, which doesn’t appear to carry any ranking points. Cuba’s Julio Cesar la Cruz is #1, both in the World Championships and rankings. Kazakhstan’s Abildek Niyazymbetov was the runner-up but only ranks seventh. The world No. 2 is Australia’s Duncan Hooper, who reached the youth world championships in 2010 and lost to Ireland’s Joseph Ward. Hooper and China’s Meng Fanlong, ranked No. 3, were quarterfinalists. Ward is ranked fourth. We’ll take the top four from that. The USA’s Marcus Browne won the Americas qualifying tournament. Was UZB-RUS-CUB-IRL; now Algeria, Cuba, Australia, Ireland
Heavyweight (201): Italy’s Clemente Russo followed up the 2008 silver medal with the World Series of Boxing championship. Consistent Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk won the world title and ranks third behind Azerbaijan’s Teymur Mammadov (the 2011 runner-up) and China’s Wang Xuanxuan (third in 2011). Michael Hunter continued the U.S. parade of winners at the American qualifying tournament. Was RUS-CUB-UZB-FRA; now Italy, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, China
Super heavyweight (+201): Italy’s Roberto Cammarelle is human? After sandwiching two world titles around his 2008 gold, he lost to England’s Anthony Joshua in the 2011 quarterfinals, dropping to second in the rankings behind eventual champion Magomedrasul Medzhidov of Azerbaijan. Joshua, the world runner-up, is tied for third after dropping a close 22-21 decision in the 2011 final. Bear in mind — that final was in Azerbaijan. Also tied for third — Cuba’s Erislandy Savon and Belarus’s Viktar Zuyeu. Oops — the latter didn’t qualify. The USA’s Dominic Breazeale did — he was second in the Americas qualifier. Was ITA-CHN-UKR-BLR; now Britain, Italy, Azerbaijan, Cuba
The 2012 World Championships gave us a good chance to simplify things. They were the primary Olympic qualifier, so if you wanted to fight in London, you had to crowd into one of the three Olympic weight classes. Here’s how things shook out …
Flyweight (112 lbs./51 kg): India’s Mary Kom, five-time world champion at light flyweight, moved up and made a good run to the quarterfinals in 2012, losing to England’s Nicola Adams. Then Adams lost to China’s Cancan Ren in a replay of the 2010 final. American Marlen Esparza lost to Ren in the quarterfinals and is ranked sixth. Russia’s Elena Savelyeva won the 2010 title at bantamweight, then dropped them to take third behind Ren and Adams. She shares third in the rankings with Kom. Was IND-CHN-POL-UKR; now Britain, China, India, Russia
Lightweight (132/60): Ireland’s Katie Taylor is a four-time world champion. We’re not changing that pick. The rest of the 2012 semifinalsts hadn’t been semifinalists at any nearby weight class in 2010. Runner-up Sofya Ochigava (Russia), who only lost 11-7 to Taylor, is ranked third. England’s Natasha Jonas tied for third in 2012 but is ranked seventh. Turkey’s Gulsum Tatar, the 2010 light welterweight champion, is ranked second but didn’t qualify for the Games. American Queen Underwood, third in this class in 2010, needed an invitation to the Games after barely missing the quarterfinals in 2012. Similar story for China’s Cheng Dong — second in 2010, invited to the Games after losing to Ochigava in the round of 16 at worlds. Was IRL-PRK-USA-CHN; now Ireland, Russia, Britain, China
Middleweight (165/75): No pressure here on England’s Savannah Marshall, who was second behind the USA’s Andrecia Wasson at welterweight in 2010 and then won at this class in 2012. Russia’s Nadezda Torlopova lost to Marshall in the semis but has a slight lead atop the rankings. Marshall wiped out 2010 runner-up Jinzi Li (China) in the 2012 quarterfinals, and yet Li is third in the rankings. Canada’s Mary Spencer won the 2010 title, then lost her first bout in 2012. We’d have to say Marshall and Torlopova win for consistency. Wasson was the young phenom two years ago, but she lost her place to a younger phenom — Claressa Shields, who turned 17 and then lost to Marshall at Worlds. That was her first loss. Was CAN-CHN-USA-HUN; now Britain, Russia, USA, Canada
The level of confidence in these picks, again, is not high.