By Jake Donovan
The eight participants in the Round of 16 in middleweight competition have a daunting task in front of them. Not only do they have to win to move on to the quarterfinals, but still have to survive the boxing equivalent of Murderer’s Row in order to advance any further.
As is the case in the flyweight division, boxing fans from the United States and from the hosting nation of the 2012 London Games will have to wait until Monday to get a first glimpse at its middleweight representatives.
Claressa Shields enters the competition having lost just once in her six-year amateur career. That loss came to Great Britain’s Savannah Marshall, the defending World amateur champion and the current top seed in the middleweight division.
Shields now has her set opponent for the quarterfinals. She will next face Anna Laurel of Sweden, who boxed her way to a 24-17 win over Naomi Rasmussen of Australia.
Rasmussen was the more active fighter throughout, but Laurel was effective in wasting few punches. The posted scoring after each round left the Australian corner in disbelief, prompting Rasmussen to go for broke in the final round. The frame stayed true to the scouting report - Rasmussen on the hunt, Laurel counterpunching her way to victory.
The quarterfinal matchup provide a wide disparity in age and scholastic achievements. The 17-year old Shields still has her senior year of high school awaiting her once the 2012 London Games come to a close, while the 32-year old Laurel is pursuing a Ph.D in chemistry.
Edith Ogoke of Nigeria scored by far the biggest upset of the afternoon with a 14-12 win over Azerbaijan's Elena Vystropova.
A sign of big things to come was established early on, with Ogoke powering her way to a two-point lead through round one and doubling up the margin two minutes later. Vystropova - who captured the silver medal in the World Amateur Championships - came back strong in the third, reducing a four-point margin to just one heading into the final round.
Both fighters put it all on the line, with the southpaw Ogoke getting the slightly better of the two on the strength of her straight left hand shots.
The win puts Ogoke - who turns 22 later this month - just one fight away from the medal round, though another huge challenge is in front of her. Awaiting her on Monday is 34-year old Nadezda Torlopova of Russia, who won the Gold in the 2010 World Amateur Championships.
Jinzi Li rode a sizable lead through three rounds all the way to the finish line, surviving
late rally by Roseli Feitosa to take a 19-14 win in a bout whose scoring was questionable at best.
Li was on the move early on, scoring just enough to appease the judges and then darting out of harm's way long before Feitosa could adjust. The strategy proved highly effective, establishing a lead after one and adding to it with each passing round.
Feitosa was down six points heading into the final round and fought as if she needed a knockout. Li benefited from a wardrobe timeout to adjust her undergarment, giving her a chance to clear her head. The rest of the round saw Li on the run and Feitosa on the attack, furiously flurrying with mean intentions in what became a race against the clock.
The Brazilian's efforts were rewarded with just a one-point margin in the final round, as the judges scored it 7-6. Combinations continued to go ignored by the ringside button pushers. The only explanation - barring corruption - that their heads are down while making sure the right button is pushed, thus missing the ensuing attack.
Whatever the case, Feitosa was shown no love by the five-person panel, although it's fair to say that the right fighter still won in the end.
Li moves on to the quarterfinals, as she faces Canada's Mary Spencer. The pairing is a rematch to the 2010 World Amateur Championships. Spencer dominated in a 14-2 rout to win the gold in that competition and is a heavy favorite to secure Canada its first Olympic boxing medal since 1996.
Marina Volnova of Kazakhstan opened up middleweight competition with a 20-11 win over inspiring Kenyan boxer Elizabeth Andiego.
Volnova was the busier and more effective fighter for the most part, though the fight was far more competitive than indicated in the final margin. Andiego - who battled poverty and starvation for the sake of providing for her seven-year old son - was valiant in her effort, but ultimately short in her desired in-ring result.
Awaiting Volnova in the quarterfinals is house favorite Savannah Marshall of Great Britain. Even without home field advantage, Marshall is a betting favorite to win the Gold on the strength of her historic run in the 2012 World Amateur Championships.
Round of 16 Matchups (Sunday, August 5):
Marina Volnova (Kazakhstan) def. Elizabeth Andiego (Kenya), 20-11
Anna Laurel (Sweden) def. Naomi Fischer-Rasmussen (Australia), 24-17
Jinzi Li (China) def. Roseli Feitosa (Brazil), 19-14
Edith Ogoke (Nigeria) def. Elena Vystropova (Azerbaijan), 14-12
Flyweight Quarterfinals (Monday, August 6):
Savannah Marshall (Great Britain) vs. Marina Volnova (Kazakhstan)
Claressa Shields (USA) vs. Anna Laurel (Sweden)
Mary Spencer (Canada) vs. Jinzi Li (China)
Nadezda Torlopova (Russia) vs. Edith Ogoke (Nigeria)
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: