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 heavyweight division.
Note: there were two fights in the "round of 32," which is sort of a misnomer, given that there are only 20 heavyweights competing in Rio. In those fights, Lawrence Okolie of Great Britain defeated Poland’s Igor Jakubowski, and Brazil’s Juan Nogueira beat Australia’s Jason Whateley.
Here’s where we are now:
We’ve really not seen anything by way of a real upset thus far, everything has pretty much gone as expected, and there hasn’t really been any serious controversy, either. The closest thing to controversy was probably Peralta’s win over Graf.
What we have seen is that Erislandy Savón should be considered the clear favorite in the bottom half of the bracket, even though Kazakhstan’s Vassiliy Levit did look really good in beating up on China’s Yu Fengkai. Savón competed in London as Cuba’s super heavyweight, losing a controversial decision to Anthony Joshua in his first fight. If he had gotten the nod against Joshua, he very well might have won the gold, which Joshua went on to do.
The top half has an intriguing quarterfinal matchup between Russia’s Evgeny Tishchenko, who dispatched home country favorite Juan Nogueria in the round of 16, against Italian veteran Clemente Russo. Russo is a decorated veteran, now 34 years old, with back-to-back silver medals in Beijing and London, and gold at the World Amateur Championships in both 2007 and 2013. Tishchenko won gold at the 2015 World Championships in Doha, and the European Championships in Samokov. At 6’5", he’ll have a big size advantage over Russo, who checks in just under six feet, and he’s almost a decade younger, too.
Right now, my expectation is we’ll see Tishchenko and Savón face one another in the final, and I think that is probably a toss-up. In the quarterfinals, I like Tishchenko over Russo, ending the Italian’s hope of medaling for a third straight Olympics, but Russo is a crafty guy who is still capable of winning this fight. The matchup between Uzbekistan’s Rustam Tulaganov and Azerbaijan’s Abdulkadir Abdullayev is interesting, too, with Abdullayev good enough to push 2012 bronze medalist Teymur Mammadov down to the light heavyweight division for Team Azerbaijan.
In the bottom half, I like Savón fairly easily over Yamil Peralta of Argentina, and Vassiliy Levit of Kazakhstan over fan favorite Kennedy St-Pierre of Mauritius.