Although highly touted USA heavyweight contender Michael Hunter ll caught a tough draw (per ESPN) when the field was set last week, the difficult draw could be a blessing in disguise for Hunter's journey to Olympic gold in London.
The heavyweight division begins with the Round of 16—as opposed to the majority of other divisions that have a Round of 32—so all Hunter has to do is win his first two fights to guarantee a podium position.
The first two bouts pit him up against two of the toughest opponents in the entire heavyweight division and would allow Hunter to get past the toughest opponents—on paper at least—before the medal round.
Hunter's first-round match on Wednesday against Artur Beterbiev of Russia, will prove to be a difficult bout, as Beterbiev has had previous success in big time amateur events—winning silver at 2007 World Amateur Boxing Championships and gold at the 2009 World Amateur Boxing Championships.
If Hunter is on top of his game he should get by Beterbiev, setting up a showdown with gold medal favorite, Oleksandr Usyk of Ukraine—who has a bye in the Round of 16—in the Round of 8.
Usyk, winner of the 2011 World Amateur Boxing Championships, will be the toughest boxer Hunter will meet in the entire Olympic competition if he beats Beterbiev.
Although Usyk will come in to the possible bout the fresher fighter having a first-round bye, Hunter could use the momentum from a potential win in the Round of 16 and turn it into an advantage in the ring.
Since the Round of 8 bout will be Usyk's first of the 2012 Olympics, Hunter will have one bout in the books, most likely making him the less jittery fighter of the two. If Hunter can jump out to an advantage in the scores early on while Usyk adjusts to the pressure, he would set up the fight as his to lose.
Though it will be a difficult to beat the 25-year-old Usyk, doing so would make a gold medal performance that much more of reality, taking one of the favorites for gold out before the medal rounds.
With a tough start to Hunter's road to an Olympic gold, taking out two of the biggest threats in the heavyweight division first, will make the final stretch more of a scenic route, rather than a detour.