The men’s lightweight (60kg) division has produced some great fighters over the years, and there’s been plenty of talent on display again this year in Rio. With the quarterfinals set, let’s look back on what we’ve seen so far.
Here’s where we are with the top half:
The two top half favorites — Cuba’s Lázaro Álvarez and Brazil’s Robson Conceiçāo -- still look like the two favorites, but there has also been some impressive work by American Carlos Balderas and Uzbekistan’s Hurshid Tojibaev, both of whom have picked up two wins already.
Tojibaev outclassed Qatar’s Haken Erseker in the first round, but his round of 16 win over Great Britain’s Joe Cordina was more impressive, as it was a better opponent, and yet still a clear victory. He’s tuned up and ready to go at this point. Conceiçāo, his next opponent, has fought just one round, as he was in against Anvar Yunusov of Tajikistan, who had injured his arm in the round of 32 win over China’s Shan Jun.
Of course, most of our readers are from the United States, and that means Carlos Balderas is the most compelling story here. His first round win over Kazakhstan’s Berik Abdrakhmanov saw him get better as the fight progressed, but he controlled action pretty much the whole way against Japan’s Daisuke Narimatsu in the second. But Cuba’s Álvarez is a much, much bigger challenge. Álvarez made Italy’s Carmine Tommasone, a novice professional with experience, look downright bad in three rounds. Balderas has speed that Tommasone doesn’t, and that could help, but Álvarez is definitely the favorite.
Here’s how the bottom half looks:
Just like the top half, we’ve got the two favorites, who had first round byes, and two guys fighting really well up next for them. Mongolia’s Dorjnyambuugiin Otgondalai scraped past Enrico La Cruz of the Netherlands in the round of 16, and will need to be better against Algeria’s Reda Benabiz, who thus far has beaten Mahoumd Abdelaal of Egypt and Adlan Abdurashidov of Russia. Otgondalai will be the betting favorite, probably — he was seeded into a bye, after all. But based on what we’ve seen thus far, I lean toward Benbaziz, personally.
Azerbaijan veteran Albert Selimov had the bye in the lower half of the bottom half (??!), and outclassed a determined David Oliver Joyce of Ireland in his first fight in the round of 16. But next up is France’s Sofiane Oumiha, who has been very impressive in wins over talented young Honduras rep Teófimo Lopez, and then a stoppage of former pro flyweight titleholder Amnat Ruenroeng of Thailand. Selimov definitely should be the favorite, but Oumiha has shown quite a bit in his two fights.
In the top half, I clearly favor Cuba’s Lázaro Álvarez and Brazil’s Robson Conceiçāo. I’d love to pick Carlos Balderas to beat Álvarez, and I’d be thrilled if he did, but I don’t see it happening. The matchup reminds me very much of Álvarez’s fight at London 2012 against American Joseph Diaz Jr. That fight made clear that Diaz was a good pro prospect and a talented fighter, but that Álvarez was better. I think the same will happen here.
In the bottom half, I’m going with Reda Benbaziz over Otgondalai, and I’ll take Albert Selimov close over Sofiane Oumiha. If I were to pick a gold medal match right now, I’d say Álvarez and Selimov, but Conceiçāo is not to be counted out, for sure, and even with less obvious home scoring in these Olympics, having home field wouldn’t hurt him at all.