Once again boxing lit up the ExCeL arena on the eighth day of competition at the London 2012 Olympic Games. There were three weight categories on show with the Light Flyweights (46-49kg), Light Welterweights (64kg) and Light Heavyweights (81kg) all taking to the ring.
What a way to begin proceedings, with the reigning Olympic Light Flyweight (46-49kg) Champion Shiming Zou up against the Cuban sensation Yosbany Veitia Soto. The Chinese 31-year-old orthodox fighter made his experience count in the first round with some clever counter-punches, drawing in the young Veitia Soto before throwing some stiff jabs and some good one-twos to edge it. It was more of the same in the second as Zou stuck to his clever game plan to once again out point the 20-year-old. The three-time AIBA World Champion from China impressed as he won the contest 14:11.
Diminutive Filipino Mark Barriga, who was so exciting in his first bout, faced the orthodox Kazak Birzhan Zhakypov in the second contest of the day. The young Barriga started brightly, looking to connect with the uppercut and the big overhead. Zhakypov was using his big height and reach advantage to good effect as he constantly repelled the attacks of the teenager from the Philippines to take the first round. In the second, those exact shots were now piercing through the defences of the Kazak with a crisp right uppercut the highlight of the round. The Filipino southpaw came in to the final round with a point advantage and continued to be bright, mixing up his shots and landing some good punches but Zhakypov was strong, using his know-how to connect with some clean counter-punches. As the teenager tired with a couple of minutes to go, the Kazak pounced and threw a huge amount of connecting blows to overturn his deficit and record a hard-fought 17:16 victory. It is Zou next for Zhakypov.
The Kazak declared afterwards, “Barriga was very tough. I did not expect him to come back like he did in the second but my plan all along was to go hard in the final round”. On meeting Zou, he said, “The last time I faced him, I lost. I am confident though that now is my time”.
2008 Beijing Olympics bronze medallist Paddy Barnes from Ireland really entertained the partisan crowd in his contest versus Cameroon’s Thomas Essomba, throwing several four-five punch combinations as he looked to stamp his authority on proceedings early on. The young African orthodox was by no means willing to give the initiative to the experienced Irishman, catching him with some good shots in both the first and the second. Each time however, the savvy Barnes came back to outpoint him. Trailing coming into the third, Essomba had to take the fight to his opponent and 25-year-old Barnes was happy to pick him off on the counter. Ireland’s big medal hope looked good as he triumphed 15:10 and moved into the quarter-finals.
The Irishman stated after the win, “It is only my first fight. I am just glad to have won. He was a good opponent for me to ease into the tournament with. The long wait has been desperate. The best is yet to come”.
The first of the Men’s Light Welterweight (64kg) bouts saw the current versus the former AIBA World Champion as Brazil’s Everton dos Santos Lopes faced Roniel Iglesias Sotolongo. In the battle of the southpaws, it was the taller Cuban’s reach which made the difference as the jab and the straight one-two scored vital early points to take the first round. Dos Santos Lopes tried to move inside in the second in order to catch his rival with the left hook and some uppercuts but the Cuban’s agility and speed were not allowing him to get into any kind of rhythm and Iglesias Sotolongo kept on landing those straights. The Brazilian 20-year-old battled hard in the third to win the round but the impressive Iglesias Sotolongo had done enough to take the overall victory 18:15.
“This is the fifth time we have met so we know each other’s style very well. He is one of the best boxers in this category so I am delighted to have defeated him at the Olympics. For me it is a privilege to stand in the ring with him. It was a very tough fight”.
Uzbek southpaw Uktamjon Rahmonov started on the front foot against Yakup Sener, using the jab, then the one-twos before looking to strike with the uppercuts. The orthodox Turk kept his defences tight, looking to move inside to attack with some quick hooks of his own. It was a real clash of styles but made for very interesting viewing as the points were shared in a high scoring first round. The script in the second looked like it would be the same with Sener showing good movement early to stay out of the way of the tall Uzbek’s vicious punches but Rahmonov began landing more and more of his punches in that second round, wearing down his opponent. One thunderous right hook sent Sener to the canvas and from there he scored heavily. It was more or less one way traffic in the final round as Sener ran out of ideas on how to deal with Rahmonov who went on to win convincingly 16:8. The Uzbek now faces the impressive Iglesias Sotolongo for a place in the semi-finals.
In the third Light Welterweight (64kg) bout, Daniyar Yeleussinov of Kazakhstan quickly took control against Mehdi Toloutibandpi, throwing some powerful connection right hands that landed flush on the jaw of the Iranian, as he took the first round with relative ease. The second saw a more positive Toloutibandpi but the Kazak orthodox’s counter-punches seemed to be even more lethal as he caught his onrushing opponent several times to extend his lead to seven points going into the final round. Yeleussinov looked a class above his rival in the third as he let fly with an array of punches, showing an excellent variation and perfect shot selection on his way to a resounding 19.10 victory.
Tough Vincenzo Mangiacapre from Italy showed his credentials as a medal candidate after a sublime performance against Hungary’s Gyula Kate, throwing a huge left hand midway through the first round that had the Hungarian orthodox taking a standing eight count. The taller Kate tried to take the fight to his opponent in the second but the Italian is robust and was content to duck and weave before throwing some stinging shots of his own to edge the round. The class of Mangiacapre was evident as this confident display saw him progress 20:14 to face Yeleussinov in the quarter-finals.
“I have been here for ten days already and have only been practicing so I needed to release all this energy I have. He was a very good opponent, so I think I did well”, shared Mangiacapre afterwards.
Cuban Team Captain Julio la Cruz Peralta was just on another level on his debut in the competition, displaying awesome footwork, a great selection of punches and above all sensational power as he completely dominated Jordan’s Ihab Almatbouli in the first two rounds. It was a brave showing by the Jordanian orthodox fighter, who made history by becoming the first ever boxer from his country to compete at the Olympic Games, as he continued to look for openings. La Cruz Peralta’s sheer class was just too much though, effortlessly gliding across the canvas, gloves by his waist but scoring at will with some sublime punches. Almatbouli, watched by members of the Jordanian Royal Family, was helpless but gracious as he was defeated 25:8. There was huge respect between the two fighters and the humility of la Cruz Peralta ensured he got a whole new legion of admirers after that display.
It was a pretty even contest between stocky Brazilian Yamaguchi Falcao Florentino and rangy Fanlong Meng. The Chinese took the first round by keeping his distance and using the jab before Falcao Florentino took the second by effectively moving inside and throwing combinations of hooks and uppercuts. Now tied on points, the third round was fast and furious, with both throwing everything they had at each other. In the end, with the score still equal at 17:17, it went to count-back and the Brazilian was awarded the victory to set up a quarter-final showdown with la Cruz Peralta.
The penultimate contest of the afternoon session saw Tunisia’s Yahia Elmekachari, who had looked good in his first fight, come up against the talented southpaw Elshod Rasulov. It was the fifth seeded Uzbek who dominated in this one, with height and reach once again favouring him. AIBA World Boxing Championships bronze medallist Rasulov was highly effective in each round as he triumphed in style 13:6.
Egor Mekhontcev then looked to dictate the opening exchanges of his bout against the elusive and fast moving Australian Damien Hooper. The Russian southpaw, seeded fourth in the draw, knew that he had to tame the unpredictable unorthodox style of Hooper to take the victory. The game plan seemed to be to constantly hound him down with a succession of straight one-twos and the tactic worked perfectly in the first two rounds with the young Australian unable not cope with the sheer amount of punches that we were being thrown in his direction. In the third, those straights from the Russian were cutting through Hooper’s defences at will, with one particular combination hurting the Australian. Mekhontcev was in fine form and won 19:11.
The first Light Flyweight (46-49kg) bout between Russian third seed David Ayrapetyan and the talented Jantony Ortiz Marcano of Puerto Rico proved a fantastic contest, with both evenly matched in the first round. 18-year-old southpaw Ortiz Marcano was making his height advantage count in the early exchanges with the 2008 Beijing Olympian Russian Team Captain having to really search for those clean shots. In the second, Ayrapetyan found his target several times, once with an overhead and once with a crisp left uppercut to go into the final round with a two point advantage. It was a thrilling finale with each boxer peppering the other with a huge number of shots, but it was the 28-year-old AIBA World Boxing Championships bronze medallist from Russia who did enough to secure his passage to the quarter-finals with a 15:13 victory.
Ramy Elawady from Egypt began on the front foot against Turkish 23-year-old Ferhat Pehlivan, alternating with work to the body and the head, but it was unfortunately wild and his opponent was covering well and patiently waiting for the opportunity to strike. Pehlivan’s tactic was spot on as time and again he let fly just at the right moment and scored heavily. Elawady was erratic and naive as he continually went forward and left himself exposed to the expert counter-punching skills of his Turkish opponent, who in the end comfortably won 20:6. Pehlivan will now battle Ayrapetyan for a place in the semis.
With some colourful Thai fans in the crowd cheering him on, the experienced Kaeo Pongprayoon faced 22-year-old Carlos Quipo Pilataxi in the third Light Flyweight (46-49kg) bout of the session. There was a lot of respect between these two orthodox fighters and not much to separate them. The work rate could not be faulted but overall it was the precision of the 32-year-old Pongprayoon which made the difference as he prevailed 10:6 after winning each of the three rounds.
In the last of the Light Flyweight (46-49kg) contests, 23-year-old second seed Jonghun Shin of South Korea made his long awaited debut in the competition and faced the intelligent operator Aleksandar Aleksandrov of Bulgaria. The speed of Shin told in the first two rounds as he landed several good hooks to take a two point advantage into the last round. It seemed however that the 27-year-old Aleksandrov had other ideas as he went on the rampage to completely unsettle the favourite in the third, turning the fight on its head to take the final round and with it the bout 15:14, in a huge upset.
Third Light Welterweight (64kg) seed and Great Britain’s Team Captain Thomas Stalker began his campaign for an Olympic medal against 25-year-old Manoj Kumar from India in barnstorming fashion, using that big frame of his to throw some powerful shots. The Brit defended well too, moving comfortably around the punches being aimed at him before throwing some penetrating one-twos and some stinging hooks to take the first two rounds. The Indian orthodox fighter came back in the final round with a domineering performance but unfortunately he could not claw back his deficit and was ultimately defeated 20:16 by the 28-year-old from Liverpool.
Representing the tiny Island of Mauritius in the Pacific Ocean, 25-year-old Louis Richarno Colin was brave and positive against the vastly experienced triple Olympian Munkh-Erdene Uranchimeg but the Mongolian southpaw boxed clever throughout the three rounds. Colin showed great heart and a willingness to go forward but each time he tried to connect with one of his punches, Uranchimeg expertly countered, with the left straight often the weapon of choice. The 30-year-old expertly winning 15:12 to set-up a quarter-final encounter with Stalker.
Australia’s Jeffrey Horn had a real spring in his step as he battled Abderrazak Jouya of Tunisia, working the body well before throwing some hard rights. From very early on, the young orthodox Australian imposed his style on the 25-year-old to dominate all three rounds with a clever game plan, which consisted of jabbing then throwing the hook before swiftly moving out of the way. Horn’s good footwork allowed him to gain the upper hand in each round to record a solid 17:11 victory.
Sporting a less than flattering haircut, Ukrainian second seed Denys Berinchyk made his entrance under the watchful gaze of the rest of his team to face tough southpaw Anthony Yigit. The Swede was really going for it, connecting with a huge right hook in the first to ensure parity at the first break. A brutal second round saw the two boxers going toe-to-toe, throwing some punishing hooks at each other in a real slug fest. It was not for the boxing purist, with no tactics involved, it just a good old fashioned brawl. That round ended up as the highest scoring one of the tournament so far at 13:9 and went to the Ukrainian. The third was almost an exact replica of the second, with the two boxers trading a high volume of punches, with the spectators up on their feet. The Swede won the last round but could not make up his earlier deficit. Berinchyk was the victorious party in an absolute epic battle that ended 24:23.
In the first of four Light Heavyweight (81kg) contests, Adilbek Nyazymbetov locked horns with Ecuadorian southpaw Carlos Gongora Mercado. In the opening round, the Kazak was completely dominant with that stinging jab of his scoring vital points. The 23-year-old orthodox Nyazymbetov’s power was just too much for the 2008 Beijing Olympian from Ecuador, who seemed to just not want it as he walked onto a couple of hard rights. In the end, it was a formality, as Nyazymbetov moved into the next phase of the competition with a 13:5 win.
In was an intriguing showdown between tough Iranian Ehsan Rouzbahani and 26-year-old Bahram Muzaffer of Turkey, with both forward-thinking boxers. The action did not disappoint as several hard blows were thrown, with a sweet right hook giving 24-year-old Rouzbahani the edge in the first. European Championships bronze medallist Muzaffer came back in the second with a couple of good uppercuts to claw back his point deficit. Rouzbahani dominated a thunderous final round which saw the Iranian Light Heavyweight (81kg) corner his opponent before unleashing a flurry of punches as he took a hugely emotional 18:12 victory.
One of the lesser known boxers in the Ukrainian team, Oleksandr Gvozdyk, put in a performance full of skill and technique against Nicaragua’s Osmar Bravo Amador. The jabs then the quick one-twos are fast becoming his trademark and with a fantastic reach, he has all the attributes to go deep in the competition. 27-year-old Bravo Amador will testify to this after coming out of their contest bruised and battered. Gvozdyk was a class above his opponent as he won 18:6 in imperious fashion.
Algerian superstar Abdelhafid Benchabla, who qualified for these Olympic Games by winning the 2011 World Series of Boxing Individual Championships, faced 2008 AIBA World Youth Championships silver medallist Enrico Kölling in the final bout of the day. Seeded second, the 25-year-old Benchabla’s speed and movement were causing his rival problems in the first round, mixing his shots, throwing four-five punch combinations, it was a good start by the orthodox Algerian. The German was struggling to cope with the variation of punches that were being thrown at him; he defended well and threw some good punches of his own but in the end Benchabla ensured his presence in the quarter-finals with a well taken 12:9 win. The Algerian now meets the classy Gvozdyk, in what promises to be quite an encounter.
Tomorrow sees the long awaited debut of women’s boxing at the Olympic Games in a watershed moment for the sport. Three weight categories will take to the ring with the Flyweight (51kg), Lightweight (60kg) and Middleweight (75kg) categories, as history is made at the ExCeL arena. There will also be the Men’s Bantam (56kg) and Heavyweight (91kg) quarter-finals to enjoy.