Amateur Boxing: Taking a Look at the World's Best, Part 1

Rau'shee Warren is the most established American amateur heading into London 2012. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Want to get to know amateur boxing a little better? Matt Mosley is here to give you a look and some profile information about some of the world's best unpaid fighters.

With the 2012 Olympic Games only nine months away, I am beginning a series of articles that will either introduce the uninitiated boxing fan, or refresh the memories of those who follow the unpaid ranks, to some of the biggest names in amateur boxing.

I am starting with this introductory piece, divided into three parts, and will follow up with articles on the best of Europe, Continental America, Asia, and maybe a small piece on Australasia, finishing off with more detailed profiles on the Great Britain and USA teams as London 2012 draws closer.

I have compiled a list of names of whom I consider to be the best current amateur fighters, and have broken them down into three categories: Established, Intermediate and Promising Prospects.

Here is Part 1, a list profiling what I recognise as the "Established" elite level fighters.

ESTABLISHED

Zou Shiming (China)
30, Light Flyweight, AIBA World Ranking - No. 3

One of the most successful of the current crop of top amateurs. I first noticed him when winning the Olympic gold medal in his home country at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He recently added the World Amateur Championships gold to his impressive collection.

A speedy, aggressive, busy fighter, not short on skills, who fights at the sport's lowest weight. Currently ranked the world No. 3 with the AIBA, but in my opinion, he's the best in the world at his weight. After all, he comfortably beat the current no.1 ranked fighter, Jong Hun Shin of South Korea in the World's final (20 points to 11).

Major Accomplishments
Olympics - Gold medal 2008, Bronze 2004
World Championships - Gold 2011, Gold 2007, Gold 2005, Silver 2003
Asian Games - Gold 2010, Gold 2006

Chances of turning pro after London
At his advanced age, and considering he comes from a communist country are not known for producing pro fighters, highly unlikely.

Video: Shiming vs. Jong Hun Shin


Vasyl Lomachenko (Ukraine)
23, Lightweight, AIBA World Ranking - No. 3

Lomachenko was the young prodigy of the sport at the last Olympics, and still is really, although he's gotten older, obviously. My favourite amateur fighter and the stand out boxer at most major tournaments. He kind of reminds me of a white, European, Yuriorkis Gamboa in style, though he doesn't hold his hands low as much and in my opinion has better fundamentals than Gamboa, certainly when talking defence. Vasyl is a tough, highly skilled boxer/puncher with solid technique and above average power. He showed when winning his World's gold medal two months ago against the Cuban, Yasniel Lopez, that he can take it into the trenches and fight hard as well as box in his usual slick manner.

Some think he is not quite the force he was at the last Olympics, but i disagree, and his unbelievable haul of medals, especially for one so young, says it all, in my opinion.

Major Accomplishments
Olympics - Gold 2008
World Championships - Gold 2011, Gold 2009, Silver 2007
European Amateur Championships - Gold 2008
Val Barker (best boxer) Trophy - 2008 Olympics

Chances of turning pro after London?
Very likely. This may be partly wishful thinking on my part but I really don't see what else there is for him to achieve in amateur boxing after London, whether he wins the gold again or not. He'll be 24 by the time the Games come around and that would be the perfect time for him to turn over, especially considering all that wealth of top level experience he has in the amateurs.

He would make a great pro, in my opinion. His style of fighting just looks made for the paid ranks. I'm sure the Klitschko's promotional outfit will sign up their fellow countryman before anyone else gets a chance to, if they haven't already.

Lomachenko vs. Domenico Valentino


Roberto Cammarelle (Italy)
31, Super Heavyweight, AIBA World ranking - No. 3

A really solid looking big man with good skills and great use of boxing basics, the jab, the hook, etc. He may be starting to slide a bit after losing in the quarterfinals of the recent World's to England's young upstart, Anthony Joshua, but then again, Joshua could well be a future star himself and I for one wouldn't be all that surprised if Cammerelle managed to bounce back in style in nine months time. He's got the class and pedigree that should mean only a fool would count him out or think he was past it.

Major Accomplishments
Olympics - Gold 2008, Bronze 2004
World Championships - Gold 2009, Gold 2007, Silver 2005
European Amateur Championships - Silver 2011, Silver 2004, Silver 2002

Chances of turning pro after London
Highly unlikely, He's 31 now and even with heavyweights often tending to peak later nowadays, it would just be too late for him. He is a policeman and he's somewhat of a hero in his hometown, so my bet is that he retires after London and pursues other ventures outside of boxing.

Cammerelle vs David Price


Magomedrasul Medzhidov (Azerbaijan)
25, Super Heavyweight, AIBA World Ranking - No. 1

Relatively inexperienced at the highest level, he lands in the "established" category because he is both the World Amateur Champion and the AIBA No. 1 ranked super heavyweight. Built like a tank, he proved how durable he was when taking some big shots (and giving plenty) and edging out Anthony Joshua by one point in the World's final while facing a three inch height disadvantage (he is 6'3"). There is not all that much information about him out there, but he fought in the heavyweight division not that long ago and would be considered somewhat short, or at best average height, compared to today's modern super heavies. Two words stood out for me when watching him win the World's: Tough and powerful.

Major Accomplishments
World Championships - Gold 2011
Current world No. 1 at super heavyweight

Chances of turning pro after London
Probably 50/50. If he wins gold, he's got the two major amateur titles and it would make sense for him to turn over. If he doesn't win he may want another crack in four years time.

Here is the excellent World's final matchup between Medzhidov and Anthony Joshua


Rau'shee Warren (USA)
24, Flyweight, AIBA World Ranking - No. 12

Started training at the age of six at the same East Side gym where Aaron Pryor worked in his pro career. Unbelievably, considering the storied past of the USA at both pro and amateur level, Warren is the only real stand out boxer on the current team. He was the 2007 World champion and has placed on the medal table at three of the last four World's. However, in my opinion, he's not quite a true elite amateur, not recently anyway, and failed to make an impression at the last Olympics, going out in the first round.

Major Accomplishments
World Championships - Gold 2007, Bronze 2011, Bronze 2005

Chances of turning pro after London
If he has any intentions of turning pro I think he will definitely do so after these Games. He has notable achievements to be proud of in his amateur career and at 24, at his weight, leaving it any longer would be leaving it too late, in my opinion. An Olympic gold would be the cherry on top of the cake and a massive boost to take into the pros with him. Him winning the big one next year would not be out of the question. He's got the pedigree.

Warren vs. Georgy Balakshin, 2007 World's


Misha Aloyan (Russia)
23, Flyweight, AIBA World Ranking - No. 1

Not much info to go on with this guy, as is often the case with non-Western fighters, other than that he is the current World Champ, the current world no. 1, and that he intends to change his first name to Mikhail, fascinatingly. The only time I've seen him fight was when he beat Wales' Andrew Selby by a single point in the World's final. They were both skilled, fast, combination punching boxers, and very evenly matched, as Aloyan's 13-12 winning score indicates. I would not be at all surprised if they met in the Olympic final. Aloyan also beat the USA's Rau'shee Warren, in another close fight (17-13), in the World's semi final.

Major Accomplishments
World Championships - Gold 2011, Bronze 2009
Current world No. 1 at flyweight

Chances of turning pro after London
Another 50/50 chance, i think. If he wins gold or even just gets in the medals, it's a strong possiblity he goes pro. If he doesn't, he may hang around, but it really is hard for me to say with this guy, as i haven't seen all that much of him and don't know what his promotional situation would be, coming from Russia.

Domenico Valentino (Italy)
27, Lightweight, AIBA World Ranking - No. 2

Valentino has been there or thereabouts for the last six or seven years and has regularly medalled in the biggest amateur torunaments. His main problem, in regards to further gold medal success, is that Lomachenko is now in his weight division. The two fought two months ago it the World's semi finals (as seen above), with Lomachenko beating him 17-11, and Valentino having to settle for the bronze medal. He's a tough out for anyone in his division though, as reflected by his high ranking, and is capable of beating all of them on his best day.

Not really a big puncher, he often likes to box with his hands low, looking to draw the lead and counter. He lost to England's Frankie Gavin (18-10) in the 2007 World's final but bounced back to win the gold in 2009 (the World Championships are held every two years).

Major Accomplishments
World Championships - Gold 2009, Silver 2007, Bronze 2011
European Championships - Silver 2011, Bronze 2004

Chances of turning pro after London
You never know for sure but I very much doubt that he will ever turn pro. He's had a long, successful amateur career, and I imagine when he's done with that, he's done with boxing. Besides, 27/28 years old would be very late in the game to turn pro, especially in his weight class.

* * * * *

So that concludes part one of our series. I hope it was informative and helpful, but most of all I hope it helps you to enjoy the Olympic boxing more when the time comes around again, and that you will feel more familiar with some of the names and faces that you are watching.

In my opinion, amateur boxing has turned a bit of a corner, as this year they went back to three, three-minute rounds and made the scores available only at the end of each round, instead of throughout the fight, like they did previously. This new method means that fighters are less likely to coast and "run" if they know they have built up a sizable lead.

Replacing the four, two-minute rounds with three, three-minute rounds is the same as what they used to have back in the 60's, 70's and 80's and gives the fights a bit more of a "pro" feel, I think.

Some people are put off a bit by the headguards in amateur boxing, because they can't identify with the fighters as much, but I've found that the more you watch, the more you begin to recognise different fighters styles and abilties, and therefore start to enjoy watching more. I also really like to see future pro stars learn and develop in the amateurs and continue their progress in the different game that is the pros. There are also some very entertaining fights (as seen in the videos above).

Hope you've enjoyed, and part two will be along shortly.

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