by Charles Jay
Serik Sapiyev was the choice as the best boxer on the men’s side in the Olympics, which got him the coveted and prestigious Val Barker Trophy.
It was not a bad selection, although mine would have been different.
Honestly, I figured the popular choice was going to be Vasyl Lomachenko of the Ukraine, who was pre-sold as the best boxer in thne world prior to the Games. He didn’t do a whole lot to disappoint; after all, he was not in any serious trouble in any of his four bouts. He was in a division that could be considered deep; in fact, he wasn’t even rated #1 in the world by AIBA going into the Games themselves (Domenico Valentino was). The other guys were still beatable, though, and in fact, Lomachenko had beaten them before.
China’s Shiming Zou did some serious business on his way to winning a second gold medal at light flyweight, but there was still something a little tainted about the whole thing, the same way his 2008 gold was (when the opponent, Pürevdorjiin Serdamba of Mongolia had to pull out with an injury during the proceedings). This time, he was the beneficiary of a penalty that was somewhat arbitrary against Kaeo Pongprayoon of Thailand. I don’t know that I would give a convincing vote to a guy based on that.
Honestly, the judging is done in such a away that you really don’t know what counts and what doesn’t, so when you see that Anthony Joshua of Great Britain, who was simply losing his fight against the highly unorthodox Roberto Cammarelle of Italy, miraculously makes up three points in the final round to tie the bout, after not doing much more than he was in the previous two, AND wins the countback besides, you don’t even know whether he deserved to win gold, much less an outstanding boxer award. By the way, Joshua’s combined margin of victory in four bouts was seven points. That’s really cutting it close.
And even though Egor Mekhontcev of Russia has to be considered one of the better pound-for-pound guys in the world, and had a pretty tough light heavyweight field to navigate through, starting with Australia’s Damien Hooper and ending with Kazakhstan’s Adilbek Niyazymbetov, you couldn’t possibly give him a best boxer award when he had to go through not one, but two layers of tie-breakers to get there? I mrean, who’s to say the other guy wouldn’t have been just as deserving of the award if he hadn’t missed by a hair? And who’s determining what that hair is?
Sure enough, Sapiyev was not even reasonably challanged on his way to a gold medal. In fact, nobody got closer than six points on the judges’ scorecards. That’s what you can call dominance.
Yet my choice is not Sapiyev, or Lomechenko or Zou, all grizzlied veterans who have been at the top of the world in the past. My vote would have gone to Robeisy Ramirez of Cuba, winner of the gold at the flyweight limit. And I will gladly tell you why.
He was decisive, if not dominant. And he had some tough opponents. No one can say that Andrew Selby, who was ranked #1 in the world by AIBA, was not going to be a problematic opponent for anyone in the quarterfinal round. Michael Conlan was another top ten AIBA boxer, and he was fighting with a lot of crowd support to boot. The final opponent, whose name I don’t even want to try to spell, may not have come in with a load of credentials, but let’s consider that the 18-year-old Ramirez was 34th in the AIBA rankings as this torunament began, and perhaps deserved to be ranked higher than that, based on the fact that he had already won the Pan Am Games and had been very competitive with Misha Aloian in the World Championships. What we saw here was a superstar really coming of age, overcoming being in an underdog role, and gettign through a pretty tough field.
He’s the guy who accomplished the most during this Olympiad, and unless he defects, you’re going to see him as the overwhelming favorite next time out in Rio.