Boxing: Joshua so strong, Cuban left wearing rare underdog tag
Britain's super-heavyweight prospect expects to see off nephew of legendary Felix Savon tonight
Anthony Joshua will close the show tonight shortly before midnight when his fairytale redemption continues against Cuba's Erislandy Savon at the sweat-pit that is the ExCel Centre.
Joshua's unlikely rise from obscurity and a severe brush with the police just over a year ago, to Olympic hopeful at super-heavyweight and, even more amazingly, favourite going into tonight's fight is nothing short of amazing. It is rare indeed for a British boxer to reduce a Cuban to the status of underdog but that is what Joshua's year has made possible.
"It's been a great time and now it's down to me to make it happen," said Joshua, who reached the final of last year's world championships in Baku to secure both his place in the GB team and a high seeding for the draw. Savon, who is the nephew of triple Olympic champion Felix, is a veteran from Beijing and does have numerous medals from international events.
Savon follows in some hefty footsteps and if this fight was taking place anywhere other than London then the whole Cuban aura-enigma thing might be a factor, but this is a Games made for the British boxers. Joshua will beat the Cuban and that is still a seldom experienced event. It was in Baku that Joshua beat the 2008 Olympic champion Roberto Cammarelle in one of the biggest shocks by a British amateur. In London, Cammarelle is in the other side of the draw alongside the world No 1, Magomed Medzhidov, who beat Joshua (right) in the Baku final by a slender point of separation.
Cammarelle begins his campaign to retain his title against Ecuador's Ytalo Castillo, who slipped through the qualifiers and should be fodder for the Italian. Medzhidov starts his assault on the gold with something of a comic encounter when he fights Congo's Meji Mwanba, who is an unknown quantity with a glorious and ridiculous tale attached.
Mwanba is here courtesy of a freebie slot, which is known as a "tripartite commission place", but it is not that simple. Mwanba, who is now 30, travelled to Casablanca for the African qualifiers and was ready and willing to fight. However, his head was too big for all the headguards and despite some gallant efforts to adapt bike helmets he found himself on the sidelines.
He is in London without a coach at the moment, but there are very encouraging stories of his power coming from the Goresbrook Leisure Centre, the sports centre where the boxers share several rings. "He's knocked out two people, spark out," one national coach confided yesterday. Mwanba is at the moment a lethal version of the now familiar funny figure at the Olympics.
Luke Campbell, the British bantamweight, also fights today and meets Italy's Vittorio Parrinello in a last-16 contest.
Campbell won the European title in 2008 becoming the first British boxer to do so since 1961. Campbell is one of the top seeds and should move comfortably forward in a tournament that is being extremely kind to the British boxers.
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