Finchley super-heavyweight Anthony Joshua will have to battle past a man with one of the most famous names in world amateur boxing history if he is to realise his dream of claiming a medal at his home city Olympics.
World silver medallist Joshua, one of Great Britain’s best hopes for boxing gold, was handed a first round bout against Cuban Erislandy Savon – nephew of the great three-time Olympic champion Felix Savon – in yesterday’s draw at the ExCel Centre. In a generally mixed draw for Great Britain fighters, middleweight Anthony Ogogo was paired with Junior Castillo of the Dominican Republic, against whom he will get the host nation’s campaign under way today.
But there is no doubt the 6ft 6ins Joshua will be the centre of attention after landing a bout he would have preferred to avoid against the 22-year-old Cuban, a former world junior gold medallist eager to emulate his uncle, who won heavyweight gold medals in 1992, 1996 and 2000.
Great Britain team manager Matt Holt said: “Anthony had a fantastic World Championship and he is ready for this fight. It is always tough against the Cubans, but we know we have got a super-heavyweight who can mix it with the best.”
Five British fighters – Andrew Selby, Hull’s Luke Campbell, Thomas Stalker, Leeds’s Nicola Adams and Savannah Marshall – were given first-round byes on account of their seedings, as were Ireland’s Paddy Barnes, Michael Conlan and Katie Taylor.
Liverpool’s Natasha Jonas was given the toughest draw when she was paired with American Queen Underwood in the women’s lightweight division – with the winner due to face four-time world champion Taylor in the quarter-finals.
Taylor’s father and coach Peter Taylor said: “It’s a tough draw but it’s tough for the US and GB too.
“It is great when you get fighters of this calibre coming together and it promises to be a great stage for amateur boxing.
“Katie does not feel under pressure at all.
“We are trying not to build it into a big event in her mind.
“As far as Katie is concerned once the bell goes it’s another fight – it could be the Olympic Games or a club show.
“She is going to do what she always does.”
Campbell, one of Britain’s top gold hopes, will be pleased with a draw which starts with a bye followed by a meeting with the winner of a first round bout between Italy’s Jahyn Parrinello and and Jonas Matheus of Namibia.
Campbell’s bantamweight rival John Joe Nevin will get Ireland’s campaign underway today when he faces Dennis Ceylan of Denmark in his opening bout. With Campbell and Nevin in opposite sides of the draw, a meeting in the gold medal match remains possible.