Olympics 2012 Boxing: Gold Medal Fight Previews and Predictions

Roberto Cammarelle of Italy will have to beat Great Britain's Anthony Joshua if he is to pick up a second Olympic gold medal. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

It's been two long weeks of Olympic boxing in London, and now we enter the final pair of days that will decide gold and silver medals in all 10 of the men's weight classes.

[ Full London 2012 Boxing Coverage ]

There has been a ton of controversy, a lot of gnashing of teeth, and the usual complaints about, well, everything there is that truly does deserve to be given the business. Olympic boxing is not just "not perfect," it's frankly not even good. This has nothing to do with the athletes and everything to do with every part of the wildly flawed system in place, from the scoring of the fights, to the countback system, to the fact that the judges pick a color to determine a winner in a double tie, to AIBA itself, and their often gloriously incompetent officials.

But we're here now, and at this point, I'm trying to make it about the athletes. These 20 men, ranging from 18 to 32 years of age, will bring all they have for Olympic gold glory. They come from China, Thailand, Mongolia, Cuba, Great Britain, Ireland, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Russia, Italy, South Korea, Brazil, and Japan. For many of them, this is the biggest fight they'll ever have in their boxing careers -- and remember, that's going to go for even some of the best guys here. This is their moment. This is what they've worked for.

Gold medals will be decided on Saturday and Sunday, with five fights in each session.

Light Flyweight (108 lbs/49kg)
Zou Shiming (China) vs Kaeo Pongprayoon (Thailand)

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(Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

How They Got Here

Zou Shiming (China)
def. Yosbany Veitia (Cuba), 14-11
def. Birzhan Zhakypov (Kazakhstan), 13-10
def. Paddy Barnes (Ireland), 15-15 - countback

Kaeo Pongprayoon (Thailand)
def. Mohamed Flissi (Algeria), 19-11
def. Carlos Quipo (Ecuador), 10-6
def. Aleksandar Aleksandrov (Bulgaria), 16-10
def. David Ayrapetyan (Russia), 13-12

Pick

It would be easy to pick Zou to finally get knocked off here, as the young Thai standout is on a big roll and has some good momentum right now, and youth will be on his side. His upset over Ayrapetyan was a minor stunner, while Zou, the top seed and defending gold medalist from Beijing, has barely gotten past everyone, and has clearly lost a step in the last four years.

But I have to go with China's top fighter to secure his second gold, in another fight where he Ric Flairs it and escapes by the skin of his teeth. This is his final Olympics, as at age 31, he'll be too old to compete in Rio in 2016, with the Olympics upper age limit of 34. Expect him to leave everything he's got in the ring.

Flyweight (114 lbs/52kg)
Tugstsogt Nyambayar (Mongolia) vs Robeisy Ramirez (Cuba)

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(Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

How They Got Here

Tugstsogt Nyambayar (Mongolia)
def. Elvin Mamishzada (Azerbaijan), 18-11
def. Vincenzo Picardi (Italy), 17-16
def. Jasurbek Latipov (Uzbekistan), 15-10
def. Misha Aloian (Russia), 15-11

Robeisy Ramirez (Cuba)
def. Katsuaki Susa (Japan), 19-7
def. Chatchai Butdee (Thailand), 22-10
def. Andrew Selby (Great Britain), 16-11
def. Michael Conlan (Ireland), 20-10

Pick

This is a great matchup. Tugstsogt, 20, has consistently beaten good fighters -- Picardi, Latipov, and Aloian were all seeded, and Aloian was the top seed at the weight. He's flown under the radar round after round, as someone else was often getting a lot more attention.

In every round, at least one "someone" has been Cuba's Ramirez, an 18-year-old dynamo with amazing ability who has wowed observers. He has dominated everyone he's fought, including seeded foes Selby and Conlan. He has simply been a class above everyone he's faced to date. As good as Tugstsogt has been, I can't pick against Ramirez. He's just too good. He has a very serious argument for the Val Barker Trophy if he wins this fight.

Bantamweight (123lbs/56kg)
John Joe Nevin (Ireland) vs Luke Campbell (Great Britain)

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(Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

How They Got Here

John Joe Nevin (Ireland)
def. Dennis Ceylan (Denmark), 21-6
def. Kanat Abdutalipov (Kazakhstan), 15-10
def. Oscar Valdez (Mexico), 19-13
def. Lazaro Alvarez (Cuba), 19-14

Luke Campbell (Great Britain)
def. Jahyn Vittorio Parrinello (Italy), 11-9
def. Detelin Dalakliev (Bulgaria), 16-15
def. Satoshi Shimizu (Japan), 20-11

Pick

Between the two, Nevin has the best win, as he outboxed top seed Alvarez in the semifinals with a really great effort. Campbell has been a bit fortunate, particularly against Dalakliev -- nothing terribly controversial, really, but I think he's been the boxer more vulnerable of the two. Nevin has been a truly classy operator so far. That said, it's a different style matchup for the Irishman, and Campbell will have home field advantage in London. This won't be easy, but I'm picking Nevin to win. If Campbell takes it up a notch, he has a real shot, but he'll need more than he's shown so far, and that's not a knock on Campbell.

Lightweight (132 lbs/60kg)
Vasyl Lomachenko (Ukraine) vs Soonchul Han (South Korea)

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(Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

How They Got Here

Vasyl Lomachenko (Ukraine)
def. Wellington Arias (Dominican Republic), 15-3
def. Felix Verdejo (Puerto Rico), 14-9
def. Yasnier Toledo (Cuba), 14-11

Soonchul Han (South Korea)
def. Mohamed Eliwa (Egypt), 11-6
def. Vazgen Safaryants (Belarus), 13-13/countback - judges decision
def. Fazliddin Gaibnazarov (Uzbekistan), 16-13
def. Evaldas Petrauskas (Lithuania), 18-13

Pick

Look, Han is good. But Lomachenko is on another level, and fact is, he's probably beaten two guys better than Han already in Verdejo and Toledo. Lomacheno is still probably the best amateur boxer in the world.

Light Welterweight (141 lbs/64kg)
Roniel Iglesias (Cuba) vs Denys Berinchyk (Ukraine)

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(Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

How They Got Here

Roniel Iglesias (Cuba)
def. Cesar Villarraga (Colombia), 20-9
def. Everton Lopes (Brazil), 18-15
def. Uktamjon Rahmonov (Uzbekistan), 21-15
def. Vincenzo Mangiacapre (Italy), 15-8

Denys Berinchyk (Ukraine)
def. Anthony Yigit (Sweden), 24-23
def. Jeff Horn (Australia), 21-13
def. Munkh-Erdene Uranchimeg (Mongolia), 29-21

Pick

Berinchyk has shown weakness in every fight, operating as a come-forward brawler and little more. His most convincing win over Australia's Horn was also an opponent he was able to flat-out overpower, which Sweden's Yigit and Mongolia's Uranchimeg were not -- well, Uranchimeg was not for two rounds. Iglesias has been the classier boxer of the two, and knocked off top-seeded Lopes in one of the better fights we've seen. His wins are arguably stronger overall in terms of competition, and he's won without so much effort. I have to pick Iglesias to take this one, but you absolutely cannot count out someone like Berinchyk, who's kind of like a super-charged version of Evaldas Petrauskas in London.

Welterweight (152 lbs/69kg)
Freddie Evans (Great Britain) vs Serik Sapiyev (Kazakhstan)

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(Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

How They Got Here

Freddie Evans (Great Britain)
def. Ilyas Abbadi (Algeria), 18-10
def. Egidijus Kavaliauskas (Lithuania), 11-7
def. Custio Clayton (Canada), 14-14 - countback
def. Taras Shelestyuk (Ukraine), 11-10

Serik Sapiyev (Kazakhstan)
def. Yasuhiro Suzuki (Japan), 25-11
def. Gabriel Maestre (Venezuela), 20-9
def. Andrey Zamkovoy (Russia), 18-12

Pick

Evans has home field, but he's also had to hold on in wins over Custio Clayton (which was debatable) and Taras Shelestyuk. In both fights, Evans faded in the third round. Sapiyev has been fairly dominant so far and was one of the top favorites coming into the Olympics. Evans has had a good run. I think it ends here, and he'll be taking silver, not gold.

Middleweight (165 lbs/75kg)
Esquiva Falcao (Brazil) vs Ryota Murata (Japan)

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(Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

How They Got Here

Esquiva Falcao (Brazil)
def. Soltan Migitnov (Azerbaijan), 24-11
def. Zoltan Harcsa (Hungary), 14-10
def. Anthony Ogogo (Great Britain), 16-9

Ryota Murata (Japan)
def. Abdelmalek Rahou (Algeria), 21-12
def. Adem Kilicci (Turkey), 17-13
def. Abbos Atoev (Uzbekistan), 13-12

Pick

This is a really interesting matchup. Falcao, whose brother Yamaguchi fell a win short of joining him in the gold medal round at light heavyweight, has shown a lot of skill, and looks to have more dimensions than Murata. Murata has a few things going for him, namely power, determination, and grit. He's a good fighter, but struggled to get past Abbos Atoev in the semifinals, and Atoev was only there because of two robbery wins. This one is a pick'em for me, but I'm going with the Brazilian. I think he's got more tools at his disposal.

Light Heavyweight (178 lbs/81kg)
Egor Mekhontcev (Russia) vs Adilbek Niyazymbetov (Kazakhstan)

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(Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

How They Got Here

Egor Mekhontcev (Russia)
def. Damien Hooper (Australia), 19-11
def. Elshod Rasulov (Uzbekistan), 19-15
def. Yamaguchi Falcao (Brazil), 23-11

Adilbek Niyazymbetov (Kazakhstan)
def. Carlos Gongora (Ecuador), 13-5
def. Ehsan Rouzbahani (Iran), 13-10
def. Oleksandr Gvozdyk (Ukraine), 13-13 - countback

Pick

Of all the finalists, only one of them is here due to a bogus win in the semifinals. So I guess that's a feather in AIBA's cap, right? Niyazymbetov did not beat Gvozdyk in the semis, but he won on countback anyway.

Mekhontcev, on the other hand, put in his best performance of the tournament against Yamaguchi Falcao, dominating the fight to earn his chance at gold medal glory. I have to make him a huge favorite here -- he's beaten the better opposition (Rasulov and Hooper can both fight), and he just appears to be the superior fighter, without any real question in my mind.

Heavyweight (201 lbs/91kg)
Oleksandr Usyk (Ukraine) vs Clemente Russo (Italy)

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(Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

How They Got Here

Oleksandr Usyk (Ukraine)
def. Artur Beterbiev (Russia), 17-13
def. Tervel Pulev (Bulgaria), 21-5

Clemente Russo (Italy)
def. Tumba Silva (Angola), forfeit
def. Jose Larduet (Cuba), 12-10
def. Teymur Mammadov (Azerbaijan), 15-13

Pick

Usyk had the only heavyweight bye, and wasn't great against Beterbiev, or at least wasn't dominant. But he really showed his class against Pulev, totally smoking Kubrat's younger brother. Russo has been another story. He got a forfeit win, then a robbery over Larduet, and then he managed to outpoint the other heavyweight semifinalist who didn't belong there. Russo is a punch-and-grab specialist who should be considered an enormous underdog here, in my estimation. Give me Usyk every day.

Super Heavyweight (201+ lbs/91+kg)
Roberto Cammarelle (Italy) vs Anthony Joshua (Great Britain)

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(Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

How They Got Here

Roberto Cammarelle (Italy)
def. Ytalo Perea (Ecuador), 18-10
def. Mohammed Arjaoui (Morocco), 12-11
def. Magomedrasul Medzhidov (Azerbaijan), 13-11

Anthony Joshua (Great Britain)
def. Erislandy Savon (Cuba), 17-16
def. Zhang Zhilei (China), 15-11
def. Ivan Dychko (Kazakhstan), 13-11

Pick

Joshua's draw has been about as tough as it gets, but he's earned two of the wins for sure, beating 2008 silver medalist Zhang Zhilei and Ivan Dychko fair and square. He did get some home cooking for his opening round win over Savon, though -- and the Cuban may have actually been the best man in the field.

Cammarelle, like Zou Shiming way down at light flyweight, is defending a gold medal from Beijing and is in his final Olympics. Also like Zou, he's slipped some. Cammarelle still has big power and good skills, but his decline relative to Joshua's ability is probably bigger than the obstacle Zou is facing against Pongprayoon. I'm going with Joshua here. And I think we really saw the gold medal match between he and the Cuban in the round of 16.

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