First up is of course light flyweight Paddy Barnes. Paddy’s pedigree is impeccable, only losing at the bronze medal stage in the last two Olympics to the eventual winner, Zou Shiming, with his 2012 being on a razor-thin count-back.
Since then he has beaten India’s Singh to win the Commonwealth Gold in 2014, and also picked up European gold in 2013.
Paddy topped the WSB rankings to get his place in Rio and my only worry would be his lack of top-class 3×3 minute fights in the last two years. He looked rusty in a trial with top Kazakh flyweight Sattibayev a few months ago but racked up two tournament wins over second-tier Spaniards recently, also at flyweight. However. he looked sharper against the Russian under-22 champion in another trial at the Stadium last month.
Might not be seeded due to inactivity but the extra fight could work to his advantage.
Patrick Lourenço (Brazil). Host place. Has previously beaten Egorov and Gan-Erdene but most of his recent form is poor with losses to Hernandez, Bin, and Martinez as well as a split decision defeat to non-qualified Scottish boxer Aqeel Ahmed of Scotland.
Major Honours: American Championships gold (2013).
Lyu Bin (China). APB champion. Holds APB wins over Zhakypov and Barriga. Might not be as good over three three’s as witnessed by his defeats by an old Barnes victim Laishram Devender Singh of India and Dusmatov. Recently bested Lourengo but lost to a domestic Cuban.
Major Honours: World Championships Youth gold (2012), Asian Championships bronze (2013).
Birzhan Zhakypov (Kazakhstan) APB runner-up. Could never master Shiming but like Barnes was constantly at the top. Now boxing in the APB, he lost in the final to Lyu but defeated Lourenço along the way. Birzhan might just be slipping as Britain’s Sunny Edwards edged him out 2-1 at the Gee-Bee’s in March. He has just defeated Ahmed of Scotland on his return to 3×3 minute rounds.
Major Honours: World Championships gold (2013) and bronze (2005), Asian Games silver (2010).
Yoahnys Argilagos (Cuba). Probably the favourite alongside Barnes. He showed his class in dominating Irvine in the Worlds, no easy task. Brendan holds a win over him from a tournament in 2014. The young Cuban also has defeated Egorov, split fights with Velasquez and lost to Dusmatov as well as recently beating Yafai in the WSB.
Major Honours: World Championships gold (2015), American Championships gold (2015).
Vasiliy Egorov (Russia). A serious contender with wins over Gan-Erdene, Ladon, and fellow Russians Samoyolov and Ayrapetyan. He can be beaten of course as Argilagos proved in the World final in Doha last year and Zhakypov beat him in 2014. Lourenço managed a win over him in back in 2013 – but Egorov is vastly improved now.
Major Honours: World Championships silver (2015), European Championships gold (2015).
Yubergen Martinez (Colombia). Beat America’s Hernandez in the Olympic qualifier final. Has lost to Velasquez and Finol but has defeated Lourenço
Major Honours: American Championships silver (2013)
Nico Hernandez (USA). Lost to Irvine and a win over Lourenço is his only win of note.
Major Honours: American Championships bronze (2013)
Simplique Fotchala (Cameroon). African qualifier winner, beating Hamunyela on a walkover in the final.
Major Honours: None
Matias Hamunyela (Namibia). Should be the best of the qualified African contingent as he has previously defeated the other two.
Major Honours: African Games silver (2015)
Peter Mungai (Kenya). A long ago conqueror of Barnes, but his recent form is poor. Now 35, Hamunyela one of those who defeated him and he was actually defeated in the qualifiers by South African Sibusiso Bandla, whose association have decided not to send him.
Major Honours: None
Hasanbay Dusmatov (Uzbekistan). Beat the young Cuban World champion, Argilagos in the WSB. He slso defeated Velasquez in the WSB as well as the great Russian Ayrapetyan, an 2012 Olympic bronze winner. He clinched his place in Rio by defeating Ladon in the Asian qualifier. Gan-Erdene, Sagaluev – who beat Irvine in the Euro Games decider – Zhussopov, and Bin Lyu are other victims. Zhakypov has a pair of wins over him and Huseynov of Azerbaijan also surprised him in the Worlds.
Major Honours: Asian Championships gold (2015), World University Championships gold (2013)
Rogen Ladon (Philippines). From a traditionally a strong country he takes over from Barriga and won a World bronze last year defeating Velasquez on the way, before losing to Egorov. Won over Gan-Erdene in last year’s Asian Championships but lost the final to Dusmatov.
Major Honours: World Championships bronze (2015), Asian Championships silver (2015)
Gankhuyag Gan-Erdene (Mongolia). Has lost to Lourenço, Egorov, Dusmatov and Ladon to name a few. He won this year’s Chemistry Cup in Germany, defeating a couple of locals, no easy task, but lost to a domestic Cuban recently.
Major Honours: Asian Championships bronze (2013), World University Championships bronze (2013).
Galal Yafai (Britain). A surprise British qualifier and the younger brother of Kal and Gamal, he beat Carmona of Spain and Armenian Hovhannisyan to win the European qualifier. Recently suffered a loss to Argilagos in the WSB. Has also beaten Cappai and the Bulgarian Banabakov.
Major Honours: None.
Artur Hovhannisyan (Armenia). As well as losing to Yafai has won and lost to Irvine. But he did beat Cappai and also defeated the Bulgarian Banabakov.
Major Honours: None
Manuel Cappai (Italy). Hardly of this level but a good European qualifier saw him defeat Carmona in a box-off and take the scalp of Ukraine’s Dmitro Zamotayev. He has lost to Yafai and Hovannisyan. Incidentally Ryan Burnett beat him back in 2010.
Major Honours: 2012 Olympian.
Joselito Velasquez (Mexico). APB fighter who has split a pair of decisions with Argilagos, defeated Egorov and Martinez, and qualified by winning the last qualifier in Venezuela, beating Quipo and Shin Jong-Hung. Seemingly more effective in the WSB, he was surprised by Ladon in the Worlds and Huseynov at the qualifiers. Holds a win over Veitia, as well as losses to de Los Santos, Quipo and Dusmatov.
Major Honours: American Championships silver (2015), PanAmerican Games gold (2015 & 2011)
Rufat Huseynov (Azerbaijan). Left it late to qualify, secure his seat to Rio at the World qualifier in his home country. A good operator he beat Dusmatov in Doha before losing to Zamotayev. Has a win over Nico Hernandez but also losses to Argilagos and lesser lights like Englishman Harvey Horn.
Major Honours: European Championships bronze (2015), Youth Olympic gold (2014), World Youth bronze (2014).
Samuel Carmona (Spain). Up-and-comer, he defeated Cappai last year and lost to Argilagos and Egorov. Carmona missed out at the Euro qualifier losing to Yafai after defeating Huseynov, before surprisingly dropping the play-off to Cappai. Beat Zamotayev and Singh at the World qualifiers to book his place.
Major Honours: None
Leandro Blanc (Argentina). APB fighter with initial losses in that code to Barriga, Zhakypov and Ayrapetyan but has since avenged his defeat against Ayrapetyan. Lost in the Americas to Argilagos and at the Worlds to Ladon. Singh beat him at the World Olympic qualifier but he won his place at the final APB/WSB event defeating the returning Shin Jong-hung in a play-off. He had earlier lost to Quipo.
Major Honours: None
Carlos Quipo (Ecuador). Beat Blanc then lost to Velasquez in the last qualifier. Experienced he has defeated Ayrapetyan in the APB and lost to Zhakypov. He beat Velasquez back in 2012. Quipo has also defeated La Neive, Lu Bin and Veitia with recent losses to de Los Santos and Martinez.
Major Honours: American Championships gold (2010), 2012 Olympian.
So what do we make of all this? I believe we can safely discard the gold medal winning chances of the three African qualifiers, also Hernamdez, Gan-Erdene, Hovhannisyan, Cappai, Carmona, Quipo, Blanc, Husenyov, Martinez and probably Lourenço but home advantage might get him further than his ability might suggest. That leaves Egorov, Ladon, dark-horse Yafai, Bin Lyu and Dusmatov, Valesquez, Argilagos, and Zhakypov – and of course the pocket of ferocious, focused energy that is Paddy Barnes.
I’d rank them like this;
1 – Barnes
2 – Argilago
3 – Dusmatov
4 – Zhakypov
5 – Egorov
6 – Velasquez
7 – Ladon
8 – Bin Lu
9 – Yafai
10 – Lourenço
Photo Credit: Ricardo Guglielminotti – The Fighting Irish (@ThefIrish).