It was the Bantamweight (56kg) and Middleweight (75kg) Men who got the show underway in spectacular fashion at the packed ExCeL as the London 2012 Olympic Games finally got underway. A pristine venue welcomed the boxers all eager to wow the capacity crowd and with 23 explosive contests ensuring the boxing got off to an electric start, it was a day to remember.
Joseph Diaz Jr confirmed his growing reputation with a smartly taken victory over Ukraine’s former European Champion Pavlo Ishchenko in the afternoon session’s first bout. The American teenager controlled the opening round with the clever use of the jab and some penetrating uppercuts before dictating proceedings in the second with an array of combination punches that saw him really apply the pressure on his opponent. In the third, Diaz Jr turned on the style to completely outclass his rival, alternating head and body shots to score heavily on the judges’ scorecards as he stormed to an impressive 19:9 victory.
Diaz declared after his classy victory, “I am happy with my performance, I had my game plan and I caught him with some good shots. There is a lot more to come from me”. The young American will battle with Cuban AIBA World Champion Lazaro Jorge Alvarez Estrada in his next bout.
Russian southpaw Sergey Vodopiyanov used his range to good effect against Alberto Ezequiel Melian in the second contest, moving well around the ring whilst using the jab to good effect. A solid hook to the body by Vodopiyanov had his Argentinean opponent in trouble in the third as he asserted his dominance. The Russian, a 2007 AIBA World Boxing Championships gold medallist,then raised the tempo in the final round and will have been pleased with that performance which saw him prevail 12:5 to advance to next preliminary stage.
The rangy World Military Games winner and Beijing Olympian Robenilson Vieira de Jesus began brightly in his contest versus the Uzbek Orzubek Shayimov, landing some hard blows to the body. The Brazilian looked comfortable in his surroundings, sticking to his tactics throughout to cleverly outbox Orzubk in the first two rounds. Growing in confidence, Vieira de Jesus closed out the contest to ensure a 13:7 triumph.
2009 AIBA World Boxing Championships bronze medallist John Joe Nevin entered the ring to huge applause with a vast majority of the crowd there to support the classy boxer from Ireland. He faced the tough two-time Nordic Champion from Denmark Dennis Ceylan in an intriguing match-up between two technically gifted fighters who have extremely improved their skills the past two season competing in the World Series of Boxing (WSB). The record breaking orthodox Irishman looked hungry for victory from the onset. A four-punch combination that ended with a sweet left uppercut at the end of the second round really showcased why the 23-year-old Nevin is one of the medal favourites in this category. Ducking and weaving with grace, the Irish Bantamweight (56kg) sent a real message of intent to all his rivals by sensationally dispatching of Ceylan 21:6.
When asked about his seeding of fifth, Nevin stated, “In order to get the gold medal, you need to beat the best boxers so seeding does not bother me”. The Irishman then replied when pressed about his performance, “There are no easy fights at this level, he caught me with a few shots but overall I am pleased with the result”.
The first boxer to qualify for these Olympic Games after triumphing at the WSB season one Individual Championships was Kazakhstan’s Kanat Abutalipov who ensured his progression to the next preliminary stage of these Olympic Games after overcoming the challenge of Wessam Slamana of Syria. Abutalipov showed some good footwork and hand speed to dominate all three rounds and record a 15:7 victory.
Not matter his disappointment, Slamana praised AIBA for “having given me the opportunity to train with world class coaches at the Road to London II camp. I am sure I am a much better boxer now”.
18-year-old Indian prodigy Shiva Thapa was involved in a gripping battle against tough AIBA World Boxing Championships bronze medallist Oscar Valdez Fierro in the session’s final Bantamweight (56kg) contest. Thapa looked to dictate proceedings in the first round however the savvy Mexican edged it with his quick counter-punching scoring the vital points. Undeterred, Thapa continued to move forward and his tactic paid dividends as he clawed his way back into the fight following a good second round. 21-year-old Valdez Fierro however had the measure of the young pretender in the third, connecting with some powerful shots to win 14:9. The Mexican will now face fourth seed and WSB superstar Anvar Yunusov from Tajikistan with a place in the quarter-finals at stake.
The ten thousand full capacity arena rose to its feet as Great Britain’ Anthony Ogogo made his entrance for the first Middleweight (75kg) bout of the day. The elegant Brit faced the Dominican Republic’s Junior Castillo Valdez and looked tentative in the opening exchanges as the raucous crowd looked on but the 22-year-old found the shots to just edge the first round. Wary of the threat posed by Castillo Valdez, Ogogo stepped up a gear and his more positive approach saw him open up a healthy five point gap coming into the third. Some punishing right hooks had the Dominican in trouble and the orthodox Ogogo closed out the fight in dominant fashion to record a 13:6 victory. In his next contest, the crowd favourite now faces the reigning AIBA World Champion and top seed in the draw, Ievgen Khytrov from Ukraine.
The British hope said after the fight, “It was nerve-racking to come out in front of such a big crowd supporting me but the experience was amazing. I am very happy to get the win and progress. I dedicate this victory to my mother Teresa who is seriously ill”. On facing Khytrov in the next round, Ogogo declared, “I am really looking forward to testing myself against him, he is the favourite but with the support I am getting you never know what can happen”.
Irish team captain Darren O’Neill made his experience count as he completely outclassed Muideen Akanji, connecting with some terrific punches that rocked the tall Nigerian throughout the three rounds. O’Neill showcased tremendous power that had his rival in some trouble midway through the second round as he scored vital points. It was a valiant effort by Akanji but he had no reply to the precision of the 26-year-old Irish southpaw who cruised to a 15:6 win.
Chemistry Cup winner Stefan Härtel of the WSB Leipzig Leopards was efficient against the dangerous Puerto Rican Enrique Collazo Pelaiz, stamping his authority from the centre of the ring and hitting his target with some quality one-twos to take the first two rounds. Collazo Pelaiz was putting up quite a resistance, himself landing with some bruising punches to the body, but in the third the German orthodox fighter’s superior technique told and the better choice of punches saw Härtel ensure his progress with a 18:10 victory. He will now battle it out with Ireland’s Darren O’Neill for a place in the quarter-finals.
Namibia’s Mujandjae Kasuto showed great heart in his contest against Sobirdzhon Nazarov, coming back from a first round point deficit to prevail 11:8 against the boxer from Tajikistan. Unleashing several flurries of punches in the latter stages, the 26-year-old was thrilled with his hard-fought victory.
“I am so happy to be here and to win. My family always used to ask me why I wanted to be a boxer, now they know why, I am an Olympian”, beamed Kasuto. On his army salute celebration, the Namibian declared, “I am soldier, this is for all my colleagues and all those who box in the army”.
It was a very equal match-up between Venezuela’s Jose Espinoza Mena and Youth Olympic Games bronze medallist Zoltan Harcsa of Hungary with both giving their all from the first bell and trading heavy blows throughout this riveting contest. It was a round each and equal on points coming into the third but the 19-year-old Hungarian who is coached by Imre Szanto found the reserves to gain the upper hand and with some nifty footwork and quality punches, found the target several times and progressed in the competition after inflicting a 16:13 defeat on his opponent.
WSB season one Individual Championships runner-up Soltan Migitinov of Azerbaijan and showed why many regard him as a dark horse in this weight category after he made the pressure tell in his 20:12 victory over Egypt’s 33-year-oldAIBA World Championships bronze medallist Mohamed Hikal. It was a solid performance by the 25-year-old Azeri who threw a lot of stinging shots to both his opponent’s head and body. The real test of his credentials comes in his next contest when he faces the impressive Brazilian Esquiva Falcao Florentino for a place in the quarter-finals.
First up in the evening session was proud Jahyn Vittorio Parrinello, one of the stars of the Dolce & Gabbana Milano Thunder’s first campaign in the WSB, versus the young Namibian Jonas Matheus at Bantamweight (56kg) and as expected the Italian favourite dominated straight from the off, boxing intelligently against his enthusiastic opponent. The Namibian southpaw caught the Italian flush in the jaw with a stinging straight left towards to end of the second round but apart from that it continued to be one way traffic as Parrinello continued to draw his rival in before unloading several combinations to great effect. The experienced orthodox Italian looked comfortable throughout. He will not be pleased however to have left himself exposed but he will consider this 18:7 victory as a job well done. It is Great Britain’s Luke Campbell up next for him.
A very tight contest ensued between Australia’s Ibrahim Balla and Aboubak Seddik Lbida with both fighters testing each other in the first three minutes. The Moroccan southpaw was a bit erratic, throwing a few too many wild punches whilst Balla’s more measured approach saw him connect with the cleaner shots. Lbida came back in the second round more composed and made his reach count to overturn his first round deficit. Now trailing on points, the Australian orthodox boxer had to throw caution to the wing and go for it and after looking in trouble managed to pierce through Lbida’s defences with some good punches. It was an extremely tight contest and Lbida was dejected when Balla was announced as the winner by count back after the scores were drawn at 16:16.
An intelligent performance by 29-year-old Detelin Dalakliev from Bulgaria saw him dominate the inexperienced Ayabonga Sonjica all through their contest, dictating the tempo from the onset. The South African gave a good account of himself in the third with a hard left one of the highlights of the round but Dalakliev’s class shone through as he closed out the fight with a comprehensive 15:6 victory. The Bulgarian will now do battle with Balla for a place in the quarter-finals.
William Encarnacion Alcantara from the Dominican Republic came into his bout with Braexir Lemboumba as overwhelming favourite but began sluggishly and unable to find any kind of rhythm as he struggled to contain the erratic boxer from Gabon. He just edged the first round and regained his composure to dominate the second. It was more of the same in the final round as Encarnacion Alcantara applied the pressure with some swift combinations and cruised to a well earned 15:6 win.
Tall southpaw Satoshi Shimitzu from Japan used his jab to good effect in the opening stages but the diminutive Isaac Dogboe quickly found a way around that strategy and threw some good clean connecting one-twos to edge the first round. The Ghanaian clearly buoyed by the fact that his speed was too much for his rival to handle, continued to pepper Shimitzu with a variation of punches to pull two points clear after round two. The Japanese had to go for broke and did most of the chasing in the final round, throwing lots of punches to somehow turn the fight on its head and inflict a 10:9 defeat on Dogboe.
Two-time AIBA World Champion Abbos Atoev showed his class in his bout versus Morocco’s Badr-Eddine Haddioui, dictating proceedings in the first round to dominate the exchanges. The Uzbek southpaw replicated that performance in the second but a more courageous Haddioui was now hitting his target more often and by the end of the round was matching his opponent. The Moroccan was now in the ascendancy and was starting to grind down the defences of the below-par Atoev but the Uzbek held on for a close 11:9 victory.
The bout between the USA’s Terrell Gausha and Andranik Hakobyan was a real explosive one with both boxers throwing lots of punches in the opening round with the tall orthodox Armenian just edging it. The fast and furious action continued in the second as the American looked to stamp his authority in this riveting contest, both fighters were evenly match. In the closing stages of the contest, the powerful Gausha caught his rival with a thunderous right and Andranik had to take a standing eight count, then straight after that the American unleashed a sensational left that floored his opponent once again and the referee intervened to stop the contest to award the win the impressive Gausha.
The 22-year-old American later declared, “It was a close fight, too close for comfort. It is all about the heart though and I showed more of it”.
The exciting Indian Vijender was up next and with vocal support for him, let fly with some vicious shots against Danabek Suzhanov of Kazakhstan to take the initiative in the first two rounds. Tall and muscular, Vijender packs a lot of power in those punches but the orthodox Suzhanov was giving as good he got in a bruising encounter, but in the end the 22-year-old Indian prevailed to record a 14:10 win. The ExCeL will be salivating at the prospect of seeing Vijender and Gausha doing battle in the next preliminary stage.
Next up was Turkey versus Turkmenistan as Adem Kilicci and Nursahat Pazziyev locked horns in the ring. It was a case of wanting to suss each other out in the early exchanges but Kilicci seemed to get the measured of his opponent, alternating between the jab, the right hook and one-two combinations as he effectively out pointed his rival in the first two rounds to take a five point advantage coming into the final three minutes. The Turk continued to dominate and won comfortably 14:7 but it is the nature of his polished display that will have pleased the most.
The evenly matched pairing of Serbia’s Aleksandar Drenovak and Marlo Delgado Suarez came together in the ring in what was another intriguing contest. The Ecuadorian came out of the blocks firing, connecting several telling shots to the body as he took a slender advantage into round two. The Serb came right back at his rival with a good spell of dominance overturning his deficit to lead by a point with three minutes left. Both boxers were now tired and vulnerable and they put in a good show for the spectators with going at it. With nothing to separate the two in the final three minutes, Drenovak’s second round advantage gave him a slender 13:12 victory and he will now face Adem Kilicci with a quarter-final place awaiting the winner.
The ultimate contest of the day saw promising Australian Jesse Ross pit his wits against Abdelmalek Rahou of Algeria in the last of the Middleweight (75kg) preliminaries. This was another very exciting fight as both boxers were throwing a lot of punches, sometimes wildly but a joy to watch none the less. Tied on points after the first round, the Algerian’s experience told in the second as he landed a sweet left right combination that had Ross in trouble. Rahou found his swagger and stayed cool as his opponent tried to fight his way back into contention and the Algerian moved into the next preliminary where he will face second seed Ryota Murata from Japan.
The action resumes tomorrow from 13.30 local time with the Men’s Light (60kg) and Welterweight (69kg) starting their quests for Olympic medals.