Mostly bad news today from the ExCel Center in London. Particularly bleak is the outlook for our bigger men. My hometown fighter, light heavyweight Marcus Browne, needs to get through the highly touted Australian Damien Hooper and then faces a rematch with fourth seed Egor Mekhontsev, the Russian who beat him in Baku. Marcus is a great fighter and I'm pulling for him to push through this hard bracket.
Heavyweight Michael Hunter has a double dose of Slavic punchers with Russian Artur Beterbiev and then the top seed Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk, a man who looks like he eats rocks for breakfast. Poor Dominic Breazeale, our novice superheavyweight, has Russia's Magomed Omaroz right off the bat and then (in the unlikely event he progresses) world number one Magomedrasul Medzhidov, an Azerbaijani titan whom I privately refer to as "Megalopolis." It's a miserable random draw that makes you wonder about the nature of randomness. But there are a few rays of light, particularly for the women.
MARLEN ESPARZA: Marlen got a great draw. A first round bye will see her fresh when she faces the winner of Venezuela vs Brazil in the quarterfinals on August 6. Erica Matos of Brazil will almost certainly beat the lovely Venezuelan Karlha Magliocco. Marlen handily outpointed Erica Matos in Cornwall, 16-10, and I doubt she'll have much trouble in the rematch. After that she'll get a rematch of her quarterfinal loss in China to Ren Cancan. Ren looked big, slick, and fairly invincible in that last meeting, so I'm still seeing bronze in Marlen's future.
QUEEN UNDERWOOD: It couldn't have gone much worse for Queen. She's drawn Great Britain's Natasha Jonas in the first round, which should be a thrilling bout. Perhaps the most underrated fighter of the women's field, Jonas is an aggressive southpaw with a great right jab who will bring the considerable home field advantage. Neither woman clinches much, so it should be all action, and both are slow starters, so I'd expect a nice crescendo. It's hard to see Queen winning this one, but even if she does she'll have Katie Taylor in her very next fight. Heartbreaking bracket for Queen.
CLARESSA SHIELDS: I love Claressa's draw. Like Marlen, she lucked into a first round bye, and her quarterfinal match is against the winner of Sweden vs. Australia, which will almost certainly be the veteran Swede Anna Laurell, who won the world middleweight title at the very first women's world championships in 2001. I doubt Laurell can handle the pressure Claressa will apply, so this should be an easy segue into the semis, where Claressa will meet her old rival Savannah Marshall. I lose all journalistic impartiality where Claressa is concerned and I basically want her to beat Savannah up. The conservative thinking would be that it would be best to meet Savannah in the finals, where Claressa could take silver if she lost, but I think an earlier meeting is better. This is the fight that matters, so why not have it while she's fresh? A loss will mean bronze, but a win will give Claressa the confidence to sail through the finals against the winner of the weaker lower bracket, perhaps Elena Vystropova of Azerbaijan.