With Anthony Joshua set to make his return next week, let’s look back to London 2012 and rank the top 20 pro fighters to come out of those Olympics.
Hello, boxing friends, let’s keep the intro short and sweet because otherwise this is pretty long: this is my personal list of the top 20 fighters who fought at the London 2012 Olympics, based on their pro careers thus far.
Why? Well, Anthony Joshua fights this coming weekend, and Jamel Herring just won a world title this weekend, and it’s about to be a US holiday tomorrow, so things are going to be a little slow for a couple days.
This isn’t a pound-for-pound ranking of these fighters — not strictly, anyway. What I mean to say is it’s not my pound-for-pound list of fighters who have turned pro from London 2012. That would look different than this, where I’m taking into account these fighters’ impact on the pro sport and their achievements (things like world titles and whatnot) more than I would just doing a straight P4P thing, where I don’t much care about belts.
Honorable Mentions: Terrell Gausha, who probably should have gotten a win last night over Austin Trout, and has challenged for a world title, albeit in a clear losing effort … Felix Verdejo, who at one point figured to be high on this list by now … Mark Anthony Barriga, who fought for a strawweight title and lost this past December. There are many, many other 2012 Olympians who have turned pro — some are just in their formative stages yet, and some just weren’t/aren’t very good.
20) Michael Conlan
Better known for his robbery loss to Vladimir Nikitin at Rio 2016 as a bantamweight, it’s almost forgotten now that Conlan won flyweight bronze in London. Conlan turned pro on St. Patrick’s Day 2017 in New York, where he’s become a consistent attraction because Bob Arum knows how much American Irish in the northeast love an Irish fighter. He’s fought on St. Patrick’s Day in New York in 2018 and 2019. Personally, I think there’s a bit of worry to be had about how carefully Conlan (11-0, 6 KO) has been matched as a professional, as though Top Rank are aware of limitations that can and eventually will have to impact his marketability. But in the ring, he’s done the jobs in front of him thus far. At 27, he’s getting near the point where more people are going to question when he’ll step on the gas. Next up, though, is an August date in Belfast against Nikitin, a lower-tier pro prospect considering he “won” a bronze medal in Rio. That’s obviously a fight you can sell, but by the end of 2019 or early in 2020 at the very least, Conlan’s competition needs to be stepped up. That said, if he’s as good as Top Rank are selling, he’ll be higher on this list in due time.
19) Tugstsogt Nyambayar
A flyweight silver medalist, Mongolia’s “King Tug” could be ranked one spot higher, I suppose, but I think the jury’s at least a little bit out after his last fight, a January win over Claudio Marrero in Brooklyn where Nyambayar (11-0, 9 KO) had some struggles along the way. He’s currently a legitimate contender at 126 pounds and could certainly shoot up the list depending on where he goes next. He’s shown power, and also, to look at it another way, showed against Marrero that he can win without his power being overwhelming.
18) Zou Shiming
A two-time Olympic gold medalist in 2008 and 2012 at light flyweight, plus a bronze medal in 2004, Shiming turned pro in April 2013, just a month and change before his 32nd birthday. Truth be told, it was clear at London 2012 that he’d already lost a step since Beijing 2008, but Shiming was a big piece of Bob Arum’s plan to make billions and billions of dollars with boxing in Macau. Shiming went 6-0 to start his career, but lost his first world title challenge against Amnat Ruenroeng in March 2015. Luckily, the WBO was able to figure out a way to wrangle him a world title in Nov. 2016, matching him against a guy he’d already blown out once before, Kwanpichit Onesongchaigym, for their vacant flyweight belt. Shiming predictably won another 12 rounds against the overmatched opponent and claimed the title in Las Vegas. Eight months later, he defended in Shanghai and was stopped in the 11th round by Sho Kimura. He hasn’t fought since, and at 38 with a serious eye problem, it’s unlikely though I suppose not impossible that he will again. Shiming (9-2, 2 KO) did win a world title, but you can’t help but wonder what more he might have been able to achieve if he’d gone pro after Beijing instead of after London. Maybe not a ton, but certainly some.
17) Joseph Diaz Jr
A bantamweight in London, Diaz beat Ukraine’s Pavlo Ishchenko in the first round and then lost a competitive but clear decision to Lazaro Alvarez of Cuba in the round of 16, which memorably sparked outrage from Kevin Durant. Diaz (29-1, 15 KO) has been a good pro, as anticipated, coming along with consistent little steps up the ladder. He beat Jayson Velez in 2016, and followed that with wins over Victor Proa, Andrew Cancio, Horacio Garcia, and Manuel “Tino” Avila, who was unbeaten at the time, as was Rafael Rivera, who fell next. After a win over faded veteran Victor Terrazas in Feb. 2018, Diaz got his first title shot, competing well with Gary Russell Jr for the first half of their fight before Russell took over and won a decision to retain the WBC belt. Diaz got a chance at the WBA “world” 126-pound title in his next fight, but missed weight, still winning the fight but not the belt. He’s now a contender at 130, seeking another title shot.
16) Marcus Browne
Browne lost in the opening round in London, dropping a 13-11 fight to Damien Hooper, a talented if inconsistent Australian. Browne (23-0, 16 KO) turned pro and ran through all the early competition, pretty much, including some good for-level wins over Aaron Pryor Jr, Cornelius White, and Gabriel Campillo in 2015. Eyebrows were raised in 2016 when he got a controversial win over Radivoje Kalajdzic in Brooklyn, a decision bad enough that New York native Browne’s win was booed. But Browne has responded in the ring by just getting better, marching through Thomas Williams Jr, Seanie Monaghan, Francy Ntetu, and Lenin Castillo (who did knock Browne down). In January, he scored by far his best win, a decision over Badou Jack. Browne has a chance to move well up this list if he can actually find a significant fight at 175, which could be be hard because Browne is a PBC fighter and Top Rank controls the top of the division outside of Browne and WBA titleholder Dmitry Bivol. Browne is the highest-ranked on the list of guys who haven’t yet fought for a world title.
15) Jamel Herring
Herring wouldn’t have made this list before Saturday night, when he outpointed Masayuki Ito to win the WBO super featherweight title on ESPN. But now Herring (20-2, 10 KO) can call himself world champion forever, no matter what happens from here on out. In London, Herring was captain of he US boxing team, but he was outclassed by Daniyar Yeleussinov in the first round, losing 19-9. The former Marine has just plugged away as a pro — when faced with setbacks, he’s made changes, and it all paid off on Saturday.
14) Rau’shee Warren
Warren’s Olympic career resulted in an 0-3 record with appearances in 2004, 2008, and 2012, but he was a standout amateur for real for all those years, too, and won flyweight gold at the 2007 World Championships in Chicago. In his pro debut in Nov. 2012, he got knocked down in the fourth round but won a decision. Warren’s never been a puncher, but he has a habit of fighting like one, which makes him more exciting than your usual Olympian with 25% of his wins coming by KO. It’s also not been easy in recent years to be an American bantamweight in the pros, but he’s made it work. In Aug. 2015, Warren (16-3, 4 KO) lost a split decision to Juan Carlos Payano in his first world title shot, but got that WBA belt in a rematch 10 months later, once again in Chicago, where he’d attained his greatest achievement as an amateur. He lost the belt in his first defense against Zhanat Zhakiyanov, and lost again to Nordine Oubaali in January of this year in another title fight. But he’s had a good pro career, with some solid wins and a world title.
13) Nordine Oubaali
Oubaali was a flyweight in London, beating Afghanistan’s Ajmal Faisal and then narrowly upsetting the just-mentioned Warren in the round of 16, 19-18, in what was a really good fight, a crushing blow to Warren who went one-and-done at the Olympics for a third time. Oubaali then lost in the quarterfinals to Michael Conlan, putting up a good fight in that one, too. The Frenchman was just fun to watch at the Olympics. He turned pro in early 2014, and in late 2016 won his first sanctioning body belt, a minor WBA title, then won the WBC “silver” bantamweight title in June 2017. He hadn’t done anything huge, though, until he got another matchup with Warren in January of this year on the Pacquiao-Broner card in Las Vegas. Once again, he beat Warren in an entertaining fight, this time claiming the vacant WBC 118-pound title, which he’ll defend for the first time in July in Kazakhstan.
12) Luke Campbell
If Luke Campbell can do the nearly-unthinkable this summer and beat Vasiliy Lomachenko when they fight for the WBC, WBA, and WBO lightweight titles, he’ll rocket up this list. If he doesn’t, he’s still done pretty well. Campbell won gold at bantamweight in London and was cruising along in his pro career until a Dec. 2015 loss to Yvan Mendy. It was a deserved loss and a learning experience for Campbell, and to Campbell’s credit, that’s how he took it. He was back a few months later and picked up wins over Gary Sykes, Argenis Mendez, and Derry Mathews in 2016, then beat Darleys Perez in an eliminator in 2017, setting Campbell up for a fight against Jorge Linares in Sept. 2017. Linares won a split decision in California, but Campbell (20-2, 16 KO) proved he was a world-level fighter, too. He finally got revenge against Mendy in Sept. 2018, which got him the mandatory spot for the WBC lightweight title. Which now means he’ll face Lomachenko for the vacant belt after some fancy maneuvering by Top Rank. Campbell is the highest-ranked on the list of those from London 2012 who haven’t won a world title.
11) Ryota Murata
Middleweight gold medalist in London, Murata edged out Brazil’s Esquiva Falcao in the gold medal match and has shown much more interest in being a legitimate pro than Falcao ever has. Falcao may be 23-0 (15 KO) as a pro, but AGAINST WHO? AGAINST WHO? AGAINST WHO? AGAINST WHO? AGANST WHO? Murata (14-2, 11 KO) was fighting decent competition out the gate, debuting in Aug. 2013 against veteran Akio Shibata. Murata should have won the WBA “world” middleweight title in May 2017 against Hassan N’Dam, but even fighting at home in Japan, he was flat robbed on the cards in a split decision loss. He did get the rematch five months later, and set things right, stopping N’Dam after seven. He defended once against Emanuele Blandamura and was then upset by Rob Brant last October in Las Vegas. He’ll try to get that belt back on July 12 in Osaka.
10) Isaac Dogboe
A bantamweight in London, Dogboe was out in the first round, losing to eventual silver medalist Satoshi Shimizu on a 10-9 score. I know he’s just lost two straight fights to Emanuel Navarrete, but I still think Dogboe (20-2, 14 KO) belongs up here on the list for now. He really exploded onto the super bantamweight scene in 2018, beating Cesar Juarez at home in Accra, and then coming to Philadelphia to stop Jessie Magdaleno in a terrific fight and win the WBO title. He defended against Hidenori Otake before running into a guy in Navarrete who is just all kinds of wrong for Dogboe. He says he’s going to go up to featherweight, which could be hell for him at 5’2”. We may have already seen the peak of “Royal Storm,” but we’ll see.
9) Oscar Valdez
Of all the guys we saw at London 2012, Mexico’s Valdez was the one who most didn’t quite fit the amateur style, but was very clearly going to make a good action fighter in the pros. He got past India’s Shiva Thapa and Tajikistan’s Anvar Yunusov, then lost to Ireland’s John Joe Nevin, the eventual silver medalist. Valdez (25-0, 20 KO) has been as expected as a professional, a warrior who fights hard every time out and gives you bang for your buck. He was, being honest, somewhat gift-wrapped the WBO featherweight title in 2016, when the organization put the vacant belt up between Valdez and Matias Rueda, an unbeaten but unproven Argentine fighter. Valdez stopped him in two. Valdez has defended successfully against Hiroshige Osawa, Miguel Marriaga, Genesis Servania, Scott Quigg, and Carmine Tommasone. The fight with Quigg was a war, with Quigg suffering a broken nose and Valdez a broken jaw that put him on the shelf for 11 months. There is the thought that Valdez will have a short prime with his style, but he’s trying to get around that by boxing more.
8) Jose Ramirez
One of several members of Team USA who fell well short in London, but clearly had pro potential. As a lightweight, he beat France’s Rachid Azzedine 21-20 in the round of 32, then lost to Fazliddin Gaibnazarov of Uzbekistan in the round of 16. Gaibnazarov would go on to win gold at light welterweight in 2016. Ramirez (24-0, 16 KO) signed with Top Rank after the Olympics and stayed on the path for five years, then got his shot at a world title in March 2018, beating Amir Imam to claim the vacant WBO 140-pound belt. He’s defended twice, beating Antonio Orozco and Jose Zepeda. He’s near the top of a strong division that has four in-prime titleholders, and he’s become a good draw for Top Rank in Fresno, California.
7) Artur Beterbiev
Beterbiev (14-0, 14 KO) fought as a heavyweight in London, beating Team USA’s Michael Hunter via countback in the opening round, and then losing to Oleksandr Usyk in the quarterfinals. No shame in that. The Russian has had injury and promotional problems during his pro career, but won the IBF light heavyweight title in 2017, beating fellow London Olympian Enrico Koelling via 12th round TKO in a fight Beterbiev had dominated. He’s defended twice since, and now with Top Rank, he should finally get a chance to stay active at age 34, making the most of what’s left of his prime. He’s one of boxing’s best maulers.
6) Josh Taylor
The Great Britain team did very well at London 2012, by hook or crook, but Taylor wasn’t one of the guys who advanced far. Fighting at lightweight, he beat Brazil’s Robson Conceicao in the opening round, then lost to Italian veteran and third-time Olympian Domenico Valentino in the round of 16. But as a pro, Taylor (15-0, 12 KO) has been terrific. He joined the pro ranks in 2015, and in 2017 stepped up with an impressive stoppage of fellow unbeaten prospect Ohara Davies, followed by wins over Miguel Vazquez, Winston Campos, and Viktor Postol. He entered the World Boxing Super Series last year and dominated Ryan Martin, and just won the IBF 140-pound title from Ivan Baranchyk on May 18. He’s set to face Regis Prograis in the WBSS tournament final; if he wins that, he’d jump at least one spot for me.
5) Oleksandr Gvozdyk
Gvozdyk (17-0, 14 KO) comes in just ahead of Beterbiev and Taylor for me because of his great LINEAL! claim, having beat Adonis Stevenson, who beat Chad Dawson, who beat Bernard Hopkins, who beat Jean Pascal, who had beaten Chad Dawson a little less than a year after Zsolt Erdei vacated. LINEAL! Gvozdyk won bronze at London 2012, losing on countback in the semifinals against Adilbek Niyazymbetov of Kazakhstan, who then lost to Egor Mekhontsev in the final. Mekhontsev also turned pro but didn’t do much. He signed with Top Rank to turn pro in 2013, but he was already 29 by that point, and his career just never really advanced. He drew with Alexander Johnson in 2016, beat Gusmyr Perdomo by majority decision in 2017, and hasn’t fought in two years. Gvozdyk, on the other hand, started beating guys like Nadjib Mohammedi, Tommy Karpency, and Isaac Chilemba in 2016, and stayed at that level, more or less, before knocking out Stevenson to win the WBC light heavyweight title in Dec. 2018.
4) Errol Spence Jr
Spence (25-0, 21 KO) got further than any other American male at the 2012 Olympics, making it to the quarterfinals before losing to Andrey Zamkovoy of Russia. He needed an appeal to get even that far, and his round of 16 loss to Vikas Krishan was rightly overturned. Like most of the American team from 2012, it was clear Spence had pro potential even if he wasn’t a great amateur, and he’s done quite well thus far, storming through the tune-ups and ladder steps from 2012-16, then beating Kell Brook in May 2017 to win the IBF welterweight title on the road in Sheffield, England. He’s defended three times, most recently a shutout win over Mikey Garcia at AT&T Stadium on March 16.
3) Anthony Joshua
Let’s not pretend that Joshua’s 2012 super heavyweight gold medal came without any controversy, but he did win it. In the opening round, he got a tough draw with Cuba’s Erislandy Savon, and won 17-16 in a fight he very, very easily could have lost. And in the gold medal fight, he beat Italian amateur standout Roberto Cammarelle on a countback after they finished 18-18. As a pro, Joshua (22-0, 21 KO) has been the real deal to date and become the star it was hoped he could be. He won the Commonwealth title in 2015, the British title later that same year, and the IBF belt in April 2016, beating Charles Martin. He added the WBA title with his April 2017 win over Wladimir Klitschko, and the WBO belt with a March 2018 win over Joseph Parker.
2) Oleksandr Usyk
A 2008 Olympian who then won heavyweight gold in 2012, Usyk (16-0, 12 KO) has largely dominated as a pro, fully unifying the cruiserweight division while winning the World Boxing Super Series in 2017-18. He was last seen knocking out Tony Bellew in Manchester, which was meant to be his swan song at cruiserweight as he looks to move up to heavyweight, a move that was postponed by a recent injury and was meant to happen last night. Usyk has quality wins over Krzysztof Glowacki, Thabiso Mchunu, Michael Hunter (a win that’s looking even better now), Marco Huck, Mairis Briedis, Murat Gassiev, and Bellew.
1) Vasiliy Lomachenko
While Joshua’s the biggest pure star of the London Olympians and Usyk is the only one to go undisputed, Lomachenko deserves this top spot. After winning gold in 2008 (featherweight) and 2012 (lightweight), he turned pro and has lived up to the hype. You can keep harping on the loss to Orlando Salido in Lomachenko’s pro fight if you want, but it was five years ago, and since then Lomachenko (13-1, 10 KO) has won world titles at 126, 130, and 135, and made himself a key in the P4P discussion. He’s moved up in weight repeatedly because it’s been at times hard for him to find people who will actually fight him, but with wins over Gary Russell Jr, Rocky Martinez, Nicholas Walters, Guillermo Rigondeaux, Jorge Linares, Jose Pedraza, and Anthony Crolla among his 13 pro victories — all world titleholders — it’s hard for me to put anyone ahead of him.