Uzbekistan light flyweight Hasanboy Dusmatov and American middleweight Claressa Shields have been named the recipients of the Val Barker Trophy for this year’s Olympic Games in Rio. The Val Barker is given every Olympics to the boxer considered the best overall, and this year the women’s side also received a trophy for the first time.
Dusmatov, 23, beat Yurberjen Martinez of Colombia to win the first gold medal of the 2016 Olympics, showcasing class the whole way through the tournament. He’s also already decided to turn pro, and has signed with promoter Rodney Berman of Golden Gloves in South Africa.
There was certainly no easy call here, not that there ever is. Dusmatov was definitely thought to be a top contender, but there were plenty of potential winners. Cuba’s three gold medalists — bantamweight Robeisy Ramírez, middleweight Arlen López, and light heavyweight Julio César la Cruz — all could have just as easily won. Welterweight Daniyar Yeleussinov of Kazakhstan and lightweight Robson Conceiçāo of Brazil also likely received consideration.
Shields, 21, was a no-brainer on the women’s side. If they had done a Val Barker in 2012, Irish lightweight Katie Taylor surely would have taken it, but Shields may have deserved it. This year, it was really a question of which two-time Olympic gold medalist would get the award: Shields, or flyweight Nicola Adams of Great Britain?
As good as Adams is, Shields is downright dominant, and roared her way through her three fights in Rio. If she turns pro, she’ll be expected to be a player quickly. If she stays amateur, she’ll be expected to win a third gold medal in 2020.