Two divisions are set for quarterfinal action at the Rio Olympics, with the men’s light flyweights and heavyweights both wrapping up their round of 16 earlier today. Let’s take a look now at the light flyweight division.
Here’s a look at the top half of the bracket:
We’ve definitely seen some surprising results here, notably the bottom portion where both Rogen Ladon of the Philippines and Ireland’s Paddy Barnes were eliminated in the round of 16 after receiving byes. Barnes won bronze in both Beijing and London, and was expected to be a medal contender again in Rio, but Spain’s Samuel Carmona was just too much for him. And any doubts about the quality of Colombia’s Yurberjen Martinez disappeared in the round of 16, too, as he upset Ladon after a one-sided victory against an overmatched Patrick Lourenço of Brazil.
The top half has been a bit more as expected. Cuba’s Joahnys Argilagos, the top seed, got a bye and then beat Great Britain’s Galal Yafai, a talented fighter who gave Argilagos a decent fight. Argilagos will face Kenya’s Peter Mungai Warui, who knocked off China’s Lü Bin, after they both received first round byes.
Here’s where the bottom half of the bracket stands now:
Once again, some notable upsets at hand. Namibia’s Mathias Hamunyela knocked off Azerbaijan’s Rufat Huseynov in the round of 32, which was a surprise, before falling to Kazakhstan’s Birzhan Zhakypov in the round of 16. Hamunyela was great fun to watch, pretty much fought as if every minute of the fight was all or nothing. That got him a win over Huseynov, but got him beaten against Zhakpov, although frankly no other strategy was going to work any better. Zhakypov, a 32-year-old veteran and quarterfinalist four years ago in London, was just a better fighter.
The biggest story out of this half of the bracket is Nico Hernandez of the United States, who knocked off Italy’s Manuel Cappai in the opening round, which was no easy task. Cappai is a two-time Olympian (though now 0-2 in the competition), and was plenty competitive. But it was his round of 16 upset of the heavily favored Vasily Egorov of Russia that has really turned heads, and is a huge win for the U.S. boxing team and program as a whole. After the miserable performance of the 2012 team, and a small squad of just six men and two women sent to Rio, it’s a welcome sight for American fans to see Hernandez doing this well.
He’s got another tough assignment in the quarterfinals, facing Ecuador’s Carlos Quipo, who had a first round bye and then beat Mongolia’s Gankhuyagiin Gan-Erdene, who also had a first round bye. There may also be the thought that the "real" final of this half of the bracket is going to be the quarterfinal matchup between Zhakypov and Uzbekistan’s Hasanboy Dusmatov, who defeated México’s Joselito Velázquez in the second round. They’re both highly regarded fighters and top amateurs. Hernandez opened up his end of this bracket by beating Egorov, but there are still some big sharks in the water.
Let me say now that if I had picked the bracket beforehand, we certainly wouldn’t have Samuel Carmona, Yurberjen Martinez, or Nico Hernandez still fighting, and I probably would have picked Gan-Erdene to beat Carlos Quipo, too. But we’re where we are now, so how much have we learned with these changed expectations?
In the top half, the smart money is still on Cuba’s Joahnys Argilagos to go through to the gold medal match. His fight with Peter Munai Warui of Kenya may be tougher than a potential semifinal fight against the Martinez-Carmona winner, too, and the same is true in the bottom half, where the winner of Husanboy Dusmatov vs Birzhan Zhakypov will be the favorite to get to the final.
If I were picking the gold medal match right now, I’d go with Argilagos against Zhakypov. But what about the rest of the field?
Carlos Quipo looked quite good in his win over the Mongolian in the round of 16, but Nico Hernandez has already won two fights, and his victory over Vasily Egorov could be a game changer for him mentally. You have to think Quipo will still be the favorite, but this is no larger a challenge than Egorov was, and Hernandez has already come this far. A run even just to the semifinals and a guaranteed bronze medal would be big. Really, what he’s done so far is already big.
The Martinez-Carmona matchup might be the most intriguing of the quarterfinal fights, actually. Dusmatov-Zhakypov pits two higher regarded fighters, perhaps, but Martinez and Carmona have both shown an entertaining style. Both weren’t really supposed to be here, so in a way they’re playing with house money. At the same time, they obviously want to keep on going.
No matter what happens from here, the light flyweights have already provided some surprising results and enjoyable action, and now we’re down to the nitty gritty, the final eight left standing.