Olympic Preview – Bantamweight

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Olympic Boxing Encyclopedia Matt Donnellan continues his look at each weight class, with bantamweight up next.

It would be a brave Irishman that would bet against the supremely talented and confident Michael Conlan, our only ever male World champion. The current World, Commonwealth, and European champion as well as a bronze medalist at flyweight in London. Has defeated Ashfaq, Thapa, DeJesus, Asanov and Akhmadaliyev. Only real losses have been to Nikitin when he first moved to 56 and a split decision to Eraliyev in the WSB. The Man to beat.

Robeisy Ramirez (Cuba). Conlan’s biggest rival nearly didn’t make the Games. The 2012 Olympic champion at 52kg who gave young Michael a lesson in London had been surpassed by his compatriot Andy Cruz, Ramirez reputedly has dedication problems but in the WSB was undefeated in ten bouts from 2013-2016 beating Hamout, Yeraliyev, and Akhmadaliev, he also beat Cruz 2-1 in the 2014 Cuban championships. Young Cruz has since ballooned up to 64 and Robeisy was given a chance at the open World qualifier, defeating Gicharu before losing to Butsenko in the final. In his pomp he beat Conlan, Andrew Selby, Avagyan, de Jesus, Zhang and the great fellow Cuban Alvarez (now the 60 kg favourite). He suffered surprising losses to Yeraliyev, Melian and Hamout. Ramirez recently stopped England’s Peter McGrail in the WSB team final.
Major Honours: At flyweight – Olympic gold (2012), PanAmerican gold (2011).
At bantamweight – American Championships gold (2013).

Robenilson de Jesus (Brazil). Host place. Brazil are going to get a gold medal and the awkward veteran is one of their most likely candidates. Conlan beat him 2-1 at the Worlds. In the last Olympics he beat a Russian World champ before losing to Alvarez from Cuba who then lost to Nevin. He has wins over Thapa, Chalabiyev and Melian and split a few decisions with Jiawei.
Major Honours: PanAmerican Games bronze (2011), American Championships bronze (2013, 2015).

Vladimir Nikitin (Russia). Beat Declan Geraghty back in 2012, also Avagyan. In 2013 Nevin beat him in the European semis but he defeated Conlan later that year at the World championship where he lost in the final to Chalabayev. In the WSB since 2011, he has only a split decision loss to the Italian Picardi against sixteen victories; Nikitin is a formidable opponent for anybody.
Major Honours: World Championships silver (2013) European Championships bronze (2013).

Ham Sang-Myeong (Korea). The young APB fighter proved he was good when winning gold at the Asian Games in 2014, defeating Eraliyev, Nyambayar and Zhang. Has lost 2-1 to Akhmadaliyev and has shared wins with North Korea’s Kwon Chol Guk. A decent outsider in this loaded weight division.
Major Honours: Asian Championships gold (2014).

Jiawei Zhang (China). The APB champion. In that code he defeated the Russian Vodopyanov, a former World champion and he both won and lost against Melian and Robenilson DeJesus before defeating Djelkhir in the final. He won Silver at the 2014 Asian Games, defeating Akhmadkaliyev along the way before losing to Han Sang-Myeong from Korea. Ramirez beat him in the 2013 Worlds. He defeated the now Commonwealth super bantam pro champion Gamal Yafai that same year.
Major Honours: At flyweight – Asian Games silver (2010)
At bantamweight – Asian Games silver (2014)

Muradzhon Akhmadaliyev (Uzbekistan). Lost to Jiawei in 2014 and to Asanau in 2015. He won over Thapa and Han Sang-Myeong before losing to Butdee at the Asian Championship in 2015. Gained revenge on Butdee at the 2015 Worlds, winning silver, dumping Conlan on to the seat of his pants in the final but losing 3-0. Kurt Walker took him to a split 2-1 in Sofia in 2015.
Major Honours: World Championships silver (2015), Asian Championships silver (2015),

Dmitriy Asanau (Belarus). Garry Cully beat him 2-1 at the 2013 European Youths. He scored a win over Akhmadaliyev in 2014. Asanau lost to Nazirov in the European Games final, after defeating Ashfaq in the earlier rounds. He beat Avagan, Cruz and Thapa at the 2015 World Championships, winning third place, Conlan was the man that defeated him. He is an improving fighter.
Major Honours: World Championships bronze (2015), European Games silver (2015).

Shakur Stevenson (USA). A great talent for sure. The World Junior and youth champion has burst on the senior scene with a WSB win over Hamout and an Olympic qualifier win over Melian. Underage wins include Colm Molloy (Ireland), Vargas (USA) and Britain’s Muhammad Ali.
Major Honours: World Youth gold (2014), Youth Olympic gold (2014).

Alberto Melian (Argentina). APB fighter with wins over Gicharu, Djelkhir, Jiawei, and Chalabiyev which were mixed with losses to Jaiwei and Djelkhir. A seasoned performer with the WSB as well where he racked up a 8-1 record including a win over Avagyan. Lost to Vodopyanov in London in 2012 and to also to Thapa at the 2013 Worlds. Lost to DeJesus in the PanAm’s but pulled off a major surprise, defeating Ramirez at the Olympic qualifiers, before losing to Stevenson.
Major Honours: 2012 Olympian.

Bilel M’Hamdi (Tunisia). Decent enough but he won’t medal. He suffered losses to Thapa, Hammachi and Hamout.
Major Honours: African Games gold (2015), African Championships silver (2015).

Suntele Inkulukeko (Lesotho). Out of his class.
Major Honours: None.

Abdul Omar (Ghana). See above. Has lost recently to M’Hamdi.
Major Honours: None.

Mohamed Hamout (Morocco). The best in Africa with wins over Ramirez (in Morocco). Ashfaq, Butsenko, M’Hamdi, with losses to Ramirez in the WSB and Cruz. Big hit against him is a KO loss to Thapa in the Doha Worlds.
Major Honours: African Championships gold (2015).

Chatchai Butdee (Thailand). Asian champion, he beat Akhmadaliyev and Eraliyev to win that, and also defeated Thapa to win the Asian qualifier. Very experienced, boxed in the last Olympics – lost to Ramirez – and in five World Championships. He captured a bronze at the 2013 tournament at 52kg, losing to Aloyan and moved up to 56 to beat Butsenko in the last Championships before losing to Akhmadaliyev.
Major Honours: At flyweight – World Championships bronze (2013).
At bantamweight – Asian Championsips gold (2015).

Shiva Thapa (India). 2013 Asian Champion and has wins over Eraliyev, M’Hamdi, Melian, Ashfaq. Always there or thereabouts but with losses to Conlan, Asanau, Butdee, Butsenko, Chalabiyev, and Akhmadaliyev suggest he won’t win gold.
Major Honours: World Championships bronze (2015), Asian Championships gold (2013) and bronze (2015).

Kairat Eraliyev (Kazakhstan). World bronze medalist 2013 where he defeated Ramirez and lost to Chalabiyev. Wins over Avagyan, Thapa, Ashfaq, Kurt Walker, and a WSB win (2-1) over Conlon last year shows his pedigree. He had his losses too to Butdee, Thapa, Ramirez and Akhmadaliyev. Conlan handled him well in a recent test match in Dublin.
Major Honours: World Championships bronze (2013), World Military gold (2014), Asian Games bronze (2014), Asian Championships bronze (2015).

Javid Chalabiyev (Azerbaijan). 2013 World champion where he beat Nikitin, Eraliyev along the way. Boxed a lot in the APB with a surprising lack of success, Melian and de Jesus beat him as did lesser lights Gokcek and Gicharu. Returning to the traditional 3×3 format this year he won the Great Silk Road tourney and then beat Avaqyan and Ashfaq to take the Euro qualifier.
Major Honours: World Championships gold (2013).

Qais Ashfaq (Britain). Lost to Nazirov at the the Worlds in Doha but gained his Olympic place in the Euro qualifier defeating Butsenko along the route. Lots of wins and losses against the usual suspects, victory over Avagan but lost to Thapa, Avagan, Eraliyev, Jiawei, Conlan (twice), Butsenko and Asanau.
Major Honours: European Championships silver (2015), European Games bronze (2015), Commonwealth Games silver (2014).

Aram Avagyan (Armenia). Has boxed nearly them all, defeated Ashfaq, Chalabiyev, Gamal Yafai, and Butsenko but he has losses that include Nikitin, Butsenko, Akhmadaliyev, Ramirez, Melian, Chalabiyev, Asanov and Ashfaq. Will not to be a soft touch but won’t be winning.
Major Honours: European Championships bronze (2015, 2013).

Mykola Butsenko (Ukraine). A great 2013 saw him win World bronze (lost to Nikitin) and European silver (lost to JJ Nevin). Beat Avagyan, Holland’s La Cruz (a 60kg qualifier), flyweight qualifier Eker, and in the WSB has scored wins over Ashfaq, Thapa, Hammachi, Losses along the way include Ashfaq, Hammout, Butdee and Djelkhir. However he cemented his place as a danger man in the Games by winning the final qualifier, stopping Tsendbaatar in the final and especially with his 3-0 win over an already-qualified Ramirez in the semi.
Major Honours: World Championships bronze (2013), World Championships silver (2013).

Erdenebatyn Tsendbaatar (Mongolia). Beat the better known Ederkhuu in their national championships and qualified at the final event, defeating Morisaka 2-1 in the semi. Might not be good enough at this level as Butsenko stopped him in the final.
Major Honours: None.

Arashi Morisaka (Japan). Has defeated decent Aliyev from Azerbaijan and overcame Walth of Germany and Caraballo from Puerto Rico to qualify. Good but hardly a medallist.
Major Honours: None.

Benson Gicharu (Kenya). Lost to Chelebiyev and Ashfaq. Surprised Chalebiyev in the APB where he also defeated Eker but lost to Melian and Zhang. Very inconsistent veteran. Lost to lightly rated Algerian Litim last year and to Ramirez in the World qualifier. He secured his Rio place defeating Rodriguez from Venezuela on the way to taking gold at the APB/WSB qualifier.
Major Honours: At flyweight – 2012 Olympian, Commonwealth Games silver (2010).
At bantamweight – Commonwealth Games bronze (2014).

Hector Luis Garcia (Dominican Republic). Just couldn’t beat Cruz who had his number, losing in the Americas and Pan-Am finals to him. Beat de Jesus and a good Azeri fighter Gurbanov in the WSB (allowing Conlan to initially qualify for Rio). He also lost to Ramirez 2-1 in 2014. Beat Gokcek in the APB/WSB event to earn his place. Lost to Caraballo in the World qualifier so won’t be threatening the podium.
Major Honours: PanAmerican Games silver (2015), American Championships silver (2015).

Victor Rodríguez (Venezeula). Beat Gokcek of Turkey 2-1 in the WSB/APB qualifier play off-held in Venezuela – having lost earlier to Girchau. No hope.
Major Honours: None.

Fahem Hammachi (Algeria). Not World class as losses to Veitía, Eraliyev, Cruz, Hamout and Butsenko prove. He only qualified in the World qualifier by virtue of losing to Butsenko in the quarters and then Butsemko subsequently winning the event. Beat M’Hamdi but has no chance in Rio.
Major Honours: None.

Lionel WaraWara (Vanuata). A Tripartite invite, has zero chance.
Major Honours: Oceania Championships gold (2015), South Pacific Games bronze (2015).

Matt’s picks
This is one difficult weight class to call. Conlan deserves his position at the top but my top ten doesn’t have room for Ashfaq, Eraliyev, Asanau or Melian – all top class operators. Stevenson is young and classy if a bit untested at this level but I see him as Michael’s main danger with his speed. de Jesus is at home and the Chinese fighter is consistent. Ramirez could be anything but I put him right up there based on his record and ability. I feel too much WSB/APB may prove a disadvantage to a lot of the fighters in this division. I may also be criminally underrating the Russian!

1 – Conlan
2 – Ramirez
3 – Stevenson
4 – Butsenko
5 – Robenilson DeJesus
6 – Jaiwei Zhang
7 – Akhmadaliyev
8 – Butdee
9 – Nikitin
10 – Chalebiyev

Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: joneill6@tcd.ie