The Olympics are finally upon us and, more importantly, the Olympic boxing is about to begin. In this article we will be previewing the top three contenders in each of the heavyweight divisions – light heavyweight, heavyweight, super heavyweight – along with recapping the events of London 2012.
In the light heavyweight division at the London 2012 Olympics, a 27-year-old Egor Mekhontsev took home the gold by defeating Adilbek Niyazymbetov in the final. Prior to that, Mekhontsev had won three gold medals and a bronze for Russia at World and European amateur championships. Since winning Olympic gold, the 6’1’’ Russian has moved into Professional boxing, and is currently 11-0 with seven by knockout.
Here are the top three light heavyweight contenders for these 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam
The third favourite coming into these Olympics is Cameroonian Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam. The 5’11’’ 32-year-old has gone 34-2-0 in his career, with 20 knockout wins and having both of his losses credited by unanimous decision. N’Jikam’s last bout came on July 30, where the Cameroonian pugilist won a super middleweight fight by technical knockout in the seventh round. This will be N’Jikam’s second Olympics, following the 2004 games, and as reported by BNO he plans to go on to an international title fight after the Olympics:
“This’ll be three rounds of three minutes [in each fight]. I’m going to put myself in amateur mode before coming back to my professional career in November, probably for an international title.”
Irish southpaw Joe Ward is coming to these Olympics with many believing that he’s arrived four-years late. Per the Irish Examiner, Ward was cheated out of his place at the London 2012 Olympics. At the age of just 18, Ward failed to surpass the final-16 in qualifying – despite being better on the day – because when the short bout came to the decision, the home judges voted for their home fighter, Turkish boxer Baham Muzaffer. Six Turkish fighters went through from qualifying but not a single one made an impact at the 2012 Olympics.
Now the 6’1’’ 22-year-old is ready to finally make a name for himself at the Olympics, Joe Ward is ready to go for gold, and comes in as the second favourite in this weight class. The Irishman says: “I turned down a lot of big professional offers just to be here. This is where all those sacrifices, not to turn professional, come good.
“I’m representing Ireland at an Olympic Games. It’s always been my dream and now I’ll be able to say that I’ve done it. It’ll be great to sit back and take it all in.”
With him already having pro contracts being offered, one can’t help but think that these Olympics will be his big breakthrough onto the professional stage; and that after being so wrongly ousted four years ago, he has a huge point to prove.
Julio Cesar la Cruz
The 6’0’’ Cuban comes in as one of the most decorated and on fire boxers in the division. In 2015, the now 26-year-old won: the World Series of Boxing season, the Panamerican Games in Toronto, the AIBA World Boxing Championships, along with coming second in the AMBA American Confederation Boxing Championship; and he comes into these Olympics with a point to prove.
At the London 2012 Olympics, La Cruz was once again tipped to win gold in the light heavyweight division, but went out in the quarter-finals to Brazilian underdog Yamaguchi Falcao – who lost to eventual champion Mekhontsev in the semis. Prior to the Olympics, at the 2011 World Championships – at which he won gold – the Cuban defeated both 2012 Olympic finalists, so it was a huge upset to see him go out to Falcao so early on.
There is no doubt that Julio Cesar la Cruz is the highest rated boxer in this Olympics division. Touted for his immense speed and artful dodging, he looks set to make his way to podium this time around.
Who do you think will win in the heavyweight divisions? Let us know by commenting below.