If the Olympics offered boxing a 'Lebron James' loophole, we may finally get the fight everybody wants to see
Last week, The Pugilist wondered aloud how the rules which greatly hindered an otherwise-exciting instalment of Olympic boxing at London 2012 could be tweaked for everyone's benefit. Another idea which came from the overly-active collective minds at Eurosport Towers takes centre stage this week.
Dan Rafael, boxing writer Stateside for at ESPN, reflected upon his nation's glum showing by pondering the success the US could have if boxing went the way of basketball and opened the floodgates to the pros (Ed: didn't they dominate enough of the Games?)
While it makes for an interesting read, and while a British angle also provokes curiosity, there's even more to this 'What if…?' than that. For instance, would a nation other than the United States, such as Mexico or the Philippines , take a share of the glory from the Brits and Ukrainians? Which nations could use the introduction of pros to finally claim their first Olympic medal? And how would the IOC react to pre-fight iPhone apps or hair-combing sessions?
We are going all-in with this fantasy scenario, with the built-in disclaimer that it all indeed is just that, fantasy. The Pugilist would like to see amateurs continue to shine alone at the Olympics, albeit with some more consideration put into the judging and scoring, as suggested last week.
So here we go with a preview of the the first (and likely last) Eurosport Olympic Pro-Am Boxing Open Invitational (EOPABOI). And yes, TP will move on from Olympic topics from its next blog onwards. Promise!
The men's Olympic boxing at London 2012 was divided into 10 weight classes. We will be working to those categories.
- 49 kg light flyweight (minimum/strawweight or light flyweight professionals)
- 52kg flyweight (flyweight or super flyweight)
- 56kg bantamweight (bantam or super bantam)
- 60kg lightweight (feather or super feather)
- 64 kg light welterweight (lightweight or light welter)
- 69kg welterweight (welter or light middleweight)
- 75kg middleweight (middleweight)
- 81kg light heavyweight (super middleweight or light heavy)
- 91kg heavyweight (cruiserweight)
- +91kg super heavyweight (heavyweight)
49KG LIGHT FLY
British hopes: Chris Edwards and Kevin Satchell look set to light up the undercard of Price-Harrison at the Liverpool Echo Arena in October to unify the British and Commonwealth belts, but in this blog they offer a solid chance of a bronze medal for GB as team-mates.
Favourites for gold: In WBA champion Roman Gonzalez, the nation of Nicaragua would almost definitely secure their first-ever Olympic medal. Though he's 32-0, there would be several other undefeated streaks on the line: Thailand's Wanhang Menayothin and Paipharob Kokietgym would join South Africa's IBF minimumweight kingpin Nkosinathia Joyi and Japan's Ryo Miyazaki and Kazuto Ioka in bringing an unstoppable aura to the tournament. Speaking of the Ioka, his WBC/WBA title unification scrap with Akira Yaegashi was one of the fights of the year so far, and Yaegashi could too reach the final four.
British hopes: Belfast's Jamie Conlon would stand a reasonable chance of continuing the trend of non-English medal pride over three rounds. He is 8-0 as a pro, as is Merseysider Paul Butler.
Favourites for gold: Brian Viloria would offer the States their first real chance of 'dream team' inspired gold, but Mexico's Hernan Marquez is next up for 'Hawaiian Punch' — for real — over 12 rounds next month. The winner of that would contest a cracking gold medal match with a Sonny Boy Jaro (Philippines), Omar Narvaez (Argentina) or even the undefeated Mexican Carlos Cuadras.
British hopes: Scott Quigg v Rendall Munroe was fixing to be a standout contest in June before an accidental cut abruptly halted the bout. They and Northern Irishman Carl Frampton, plus English 118-pounders Jamie McDonnell and Lee Haskins offer outside chances of a medal finish. Undefeated Kid Galahad and Ryan Walsh could also possibly get a sniff of the GB colours.
Favourites for gold: Panama have just one gold and two bronze medals in their Summer Games history. WBA bantam champ Anselmo Moreno would have something to say about that. Alternatively, Joseph Agbeko would hope to bring Ghana their first Olympic gold and Vic Darchinyan could prop up Australia's worrying medal situation. With names such as Jorge Arce, Hugo Ruiz, Victor Terrazas and Rafael Marquez, Mexico will feel pretty confident. But TP's gold medal match would see Gillermo Rigondeaux return to the Olympic scene to battle Filipino Nonito Donaire.
British hopes: Undefeated (but untested) Brits Liam Walsh, Ricky Owen and Joe Murray would battle the likes of British and Commonwealth champion Lee Selby and British super title holder Gary Buckland for the right to represent at 60, though represent may be as good as it gets.
Favourites for gold: Takashi Uchiyama would be hard to stop, but Adrien Broner may well do it for the States whilst either becoming the most popular or most hated boxer in Olympic history with his antics. Javier Fortuna is also undefeated and could develop true national hero status in the Dominican Republic, while Yuriokis Gamboa of Cuba and Americans Miguel Garcia and Diego Magdaleno may also take their streaks to the Games. Chris John provides Indonesia hope of boxing glory.
64KG LIGHT WELTER
British hopes: The first weight class which would attract massive mainstream attention would be at 64. Ricky Burns, Kevin Mitchell, Gavin Rees, Ashley Theophane auditioning for British slots alone would draw big — Burns-Mitchell pro-style in Glasgow should be a belter — and that's without the prospect of Amir Khan accepting the call to return to the Olympic fold.
Favourites for gold: The likes of Khan, Burns and Rees could bring medals home, as could another returning Olympian in Ajose Olusegun, if he were talked into favouring Britain over Nigeria. Mexico would again bring a strong presence in Miguel Vasquez, Antonio DeMarco and Juan Manuel Marquez, but Danny Garcia would lead the US charge after dethroning King Khan with Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado in tow.
British hopes: Kell Brook won a whole new fanbase with a brutal, gutsy win over American Carson Jones, and his dominance of the opening rounds suggests the Olympics could suit 'Special K'. Junior Witter, Ryan Rhodes, Brian Rose and Matthew Hatton would hope to provide a secondary charge.
Favourites for gold: In Brook's way, however, is the most interesting fantasy Olympic boxing roster of the ten classes. For instance, this could be our only hope of a Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao fight, bereft of promotional mind games. Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto would have something to say about that, with more than a little bit of revenge in his mind, while Timothy Bradley, Austin Trout and Josesito Lopez would do well in the shorter concept. Mexican Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez may be one fighter who could outpoint both 'Money' and 'Pac-Man', however.
British hopes: Martin Murray and Matthew Macklin are more than capable of serious progress, though the last thing Murray would want is to share a ring with Germany's WBA champion Felix Sturm while the recent crop of Olympic judges oversee proceedings… Billy Joe Saunders was a hit in Beijing, and has yet to taste pro defeat.
Favourites for gold: Though some bronze or even the silver could be on the cards for Britain, it would be difficult to deny Argentina gold in the form of Sergio Martinez, who outboxed Macklin in MSG this year. 20-0 Russian Dmitry Pirog, Aussie Daniel Geale and Julio Chavez Jr of Mexico join Sturm in the hunt for a spot in the final.
81KG LIGHT HEAVY
British hopes: A renewal of two rivalries could make qualification for Team GB as interesting as the finals, with Nathan Cleverly and Tony Bellew along with George Groves and James DeGale hunting for professional and personal gains. And an Olympic medal could be the sort of thing to keep the adventure-seeking Carl Froch out of the broadcast booth.
Favourites for gold: While Britain again have every chance of medalling, competition would be fierce at a weight level proven by the Super Six tournament to be tailor-made for this sort of dream scenario. Andre Ward v Chad Dawson would be something else, while Tavoris Cloud and Andre Dirrell would make them earn their spots on the American team. Arthur Abraham would be a shoo-in to serve as Armenian flag-bearer, while Mikkel Kessler of Denmark and Spaniard Gabriel Campillo are outside shots for Europe. Canada could well reach the final via either Lucian Bute or Jean Pascal.
British hopes: Though Londoners Tony Conquest and Mitchell Balker would enjoy the experience, Brit champ Jon-Lewis Dickinson may benefit from a good draw and Enzo Maccarinelli could conceivably use the idea as reason to keep fighting, it may take a decision by David Haye to return to the division he used as a big-fish stepping-stone to give Team GB a serious chance in the division.
Favourites for gold: Cuba's IBF kingpin Yoan Pablo Hernandez should bring his nation another medal and help sweep 2008 further under the carpet. Germany's Marco Huck and Pole Krzysztof Wlodarczyk, as well as Panama boxer Guillermo Jones all hold world titles as well and may pip Americans Antonio Tarver and Lateef Kayode to the medal rounds.
+91KG SUPER HEAVY
British hopes: Unless Haye thinks better of a potential return bout with Wlad Klitschko and applies for the under-91 league, the likely leader of the super heavy charge — unless gold medallist Anthony Joshua turns pro immediately — would be 2008 bronze winner David Price. Between his experience of Olympic fighting and growth as a competitor since, he and the unpredictable Tyson Fury are good bets for the semi-finals at minimum. That said, a Dereck Chisora Olympic medal ceremony could be the first to require a police presence.
Favourites for gold: TP cannot see Vitali opting in at this stage, but brother Wladimir might, and if so Ukraine's medal lineage as amateurs may not be completely broken by the introduction of pros. Alexander Povetkin and Robert Helenius, Russia and Finland respectively, along with Cuba's Odlanier Solis, will seek any remaining last four berths.
Mayweather v Pacquiao is, as always, the dream match which grabs the attention most. The question we pose to you is: would a three-rounder, rather than 12, change your prediction for that fight? And what are your other top gold medal match scenarios for the pros?
Don't worry — scrolling down to the comments section with an open mind and offering a genuine choice does NOT in any way label you as suggesting you want to see pros at the Games.
But Mr. Rafael was right about one thing: it's certainly food for thought.
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