Three weight categories took to the canvas on day five of the boxing competition at the London 2012 Olympic Games with four Bantam (56kg), three Heavy (91kg) and four Super Heavyweight (91+kg) bouts at the ExCeL Arena.
An absolute firecracker got the action underway in the second round of preliminaries in the Bantamweight (56kg) category as top seed and reigning AIBA World Champion Lazaro Alvarez Estrada from Cuba faced teenage American prodigy Joseph Diaz Jr. The Cuban’s superior technique was a joy to watch as he edged the high scoring first round by a single point, but the endeavour of the US southpaw could not be faulted as he continued to move forward in the second round. Even though he connected with a couple of sweet lefts, Diaz Jr was leaving himself open to the counterpunch, which suited the style of the 21-year-old Alvarez, who took the final two rounds to win 21:15 and confirm his status as the title favourite. There was huge respect between the two boxers after the bout with Alvarez embracing the hugely talented American who has a real bright future ahead of him.
Next up and trying to book their place for the quarter-finals were Russia’s 23-year-old 2009 AIBA World Boxing Championships silver medallist Sergey Vodopiyanov and the exciting Brazilian southpaw, 2011 World Military Games winner Robenilson Vieira de Jesus. It was a real clash of styles with the powerful Russian orthodox’s classic approach against the dancing feet of the elusive Vieira de Jesus. The movement and speed of the 23-year-old from Brazil had the crowd in awe as he weaved his way around the ring, scoring vital points on the counter in the first two rounds. Vodopiyanov tried hard to get to grips with his opponent, hounding him down in the third but to no avail as he failed to impose himself and overturn his deficit and as a result suffered a 13:11 defeat. The Brazilian now faces Lazaro Alvarez Estrada in the quarter-finals.
In the third bout of the day, it was an all-World Series of Boxing (WSB) affair between two of the Bantamweight (56kg) category’s top boxers as Irish record-breaker John Joe Nevin battled 2011 WSB Individual Champion Kanat Abutalipov of Kazakhstan for a place in the last eight. Both fighters have speed and agility in abundance but it was the calculating Nevin who took the first round with some well placed shots. There was more slick movement from the Irish 22-year-old who was using his height and reach advantage to frustrate the onrushing Abutalipov, throwing good jabs and countering with some solid left hooks. It was a classy performance from Nevin, his clever game plan impressive as he cruised to a confidence boosting 15:10 victory as the crowd rose to its feet in applause.
“I am taking every fight as it comes. I am feeling relaxed and up to the challenge, I would not be here if I did not think I could go all the way”, declared the Irishman. On life in the Olympic Park, he said, “I am enjoying the experience, I met Ryan Giggs but I am hoping to meet the Williams sisters”.
Proving just how competitive this draw is, Mexican teenager Oscar Valdez Fierro created the sensation of the tournament so far by knocking out the fourth seed and world top ranked Bantamweight (56kg) Anvar Yunusov of Tajikistan. In typical Mexican style, Valdez Fierro went all out and attacked the experienced 25-year-old Tajik, throwing punch after punch to great effect as he stormed into an early lead. Buoyed by his performance, the 21-year-old continued to apply the pressure, to which Yunusov had no response. Valdez Fierro was completely dominant and moved into the quarter-finals after this magnificent 13:7 victory.
The Heavyweights (91kg) then made their big entrance to the competition with first up the showdown between hard-hitting American Michael Hunter II and European Champion Artur Beterbiev of Russia. The 22-year-old orthodox US fighter looked really positive in the first using the jab well before throwing several vicious right hands to take a narrow lead. An even second saw both fighters exchange heavy blows but Hunter managed to maintain his slender single point advantage coming into the final round. The third saw the boxers slug it out in the middle of the ring with the American getting a bloody nose for his troubles. It was the experience and lucidity of Beterbiev that made the difference in the closing stages with some carefully crafted uppercuts as he was awarded the win on count-back after the scores were drawn 10:10. The experienced Russian will now battle Ukrainian top seed and the reigning AIBA World Champion Oleksandr Usyk for a place in the semi-finals.
Two-time European Championships silver medallist Tervel Pulev from Bulgaria, winner of the recent AIBA European Olympic Qualifying Event Trabzon 2012, had too much for 22-year-old Chinese southpaw Xuanxuan Wang in their contest, sending him to the canvas with a hard right in the first and then again with a carbon copy of that shot in the second. From then on it was damage limitation from Wang, who was aiming to frustrate his opponent, and unfortunately it did not make for an entertaining fight but Pulev did enough to see himself through to the quarter-finals with a 10:7 win.
The tall 21-year-old Yamil Peralta Jara from Argentina looked classy against the experienced Algerian WSB star Chouaib Bouloudinats. The Panamerican Games bronze medallist looked hungry from the first bell, using his height and throwing some ferocious one-two combinations to completely dominate his rival. Orthodox Peralta Jara was faster and more alert than his fourth seeded opponent and there were huge cheers from the crowd when midway through the second he landed a succession of hard rights flush on the jaw that sent Bouloudinats to the canvas. The Algerian was running out of ideas on how to deal with the power of his opposition and suffered a 13:5 defeat. The Argentinean will now face the mighty Pulev in the next stage of the competition.
The packed crowd at the ExCeL cheered loudly as the Super Heavyweights (91+kg) made their way into the ring with top seed and reigning AIBA World Champion Magomedrasul Medzhidov from Azerbaijan opening up proceedings against Congo’s Meji Mwanba. The action began with immediately one of the 25-year-old Azeri’s trademark overhead rights landing hard on his opponents face with Mwanba already having to take a standing eight count in the first. Medzhidov stepped it up a gear in the second and was starting to connect with more and more ferocious punches and after giving the Congolese a bloody nose and sending his headguard flying with a powerful right, the referee stepped in to stop the contest.
Dominic Breazeale from the United States of America then faced rising Russian star and European Champion Magomed Omarov in a real clash of titans. Deceptively fast and nimble, Omarov applied the pressure right from the off, connecting with a flurry of punches early on with the American having to take a standing eight count, then hurting Breazeale again with a hard left to the body as he claimed the first round in style. In the second, Omarov was unrelenting, landing some precise punches, with an overhead right in particular hurting the American. Breazeale gave a good account in himself in the third but was caught again by a hard left as the Russian confirmed his dominance to win with authority 19:8. Omarov versus Medzhidov will now be one to relish.
A gripping all-African contest followed with Morocco’s Mohammed Arjaoui putting on a good show against the enthusiastic orthodox Cameroonian Blaise Yepmou Mendouo. The Moroccan dominated each round with tight defences, the clever use of the jab and quick counterpunches to record a solid 15:6 victory.
Defending Olympic Champion, 32-year-old Roberto Cammarelle from Italy came up against the rising star from Ecuador Ytalo Perea Castillo in the last bout of the afternoon session. In the face of the redoubtable Italian, the teenager was keeping his defences tight, looking to land that killer punch but Cammarelle, a two-time AIBA World Champion, was just too good for him. The Italian’s superior technique saw him dominate the first round. The young pretender, undaunted, was still trying to find that big breakthrough by landing a heavy counterpunch but Cammarelle showed his class, varying his approach to cruise to 18:10 victory. The Italian fourth seed now faces Mohammed Arjaoui.
When asked if he had felt the pressure of being defending champion, Cammarelle replied, “I have not been thinking about that, I just concentrated on the bout. I did not expect such resistance from Perea Castillo but I am happy with the manner of the victory”.
With the great Lennox Lewis, gold medallist at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games, and Evander Holyfield in the crowd, Great Britain’s third seeded Bantamweight (56kg) Luke Campbell, the AIBA World Boxing Championships Baku 2011 silver medallist, opened up proceedings against the experienced 28-year-old Jahyn Vittorio Parrinello. There was a huge expectation from the crowd that the home boxer would be able to impose his style but the Italian was proving more than a match for him. The 25-year-old British southpaw was looking to make his height advantage count in the opening round but could not get that breakthrough and the points were shared in that one. Once the nerves of the Brit had settled, he composed himself to land some good shots to edge the second round by two points. Parrinello came back strong but Campbell stood firm to close out the contest and win 11:9.
On his opponent, Campbell told the media, “I know him well, he is tough operator. I beat him in the quarter-finals at the World Championships in Baku so I knew what to expect”. When asked about the atmosphere at the ExCeL, he declared, “Well, I had about fifty members of my family there, then I heard just before coming out that Lennox was watching and with the massive crowd cheering me on I felt the pressure. The atmosphere was unbelievable but I am happy to have got that fight out of the way now”.
2009 AIBA World Champion Detelin Dalakliev of Bulgaria, seeded sixth in the Bantamweight (56kg) draw, was pushed all the way by Australian 21-year-old Ibrahim Dalla. The two fighters were equally matched in the first two rounds with Balla impressing with his positive approach. The experienced Dalakliev showcased his quality shot making in the final round, throwing a sumptuous uppercut then a penetrating one-two combination that hurt his opponent as he made sure of his presence in the quarter-finals with a 14:10 victory.
25-year-old Algerian Mohamed Amine Ouadahi looked good in the opening round of his fight against William Encarnacion Alcantara of the Dominican Republic, moving well and landing a couple of exquisite punches with the left hook his weapon of choice. In the second, he was matched by his opponent and after letting his guard drop, was caught with a good right, but Ouadahi kept his composure and came back to edge this round as well. Experience told as the 2011 African Championships winner went on to win 16:10.
Magomed Abdulhamidov versus Satoshi Shimizu in the last Bantamweight (56kg) contest of the evening went to appeal and the Japanese was awarded the victory on review. Abdulhamidov was initially declared the winner despite being battered from pillar to post in the last round when he was on the canvas six times. According to AIBA rules, the referee should have counted at least three (3) times. In this case, following the AIBA Technical & Competition Rules, the decision should have been RSC (Referee Stop Contest). Therefore the protest lodged by the Japanese corner was accepted and the result of this bout overturned. AIBA officials will consider on Thursday morning whether to sanction the referee of this bout.
Heavyweight (91kg) rising star, 19-year-old Teymur Mammadov of Azerbaijan struggled to get to grips with Jai Tapu Opetaia in the first two rounds. The Australian was the youngest boxer at these Olympic Games, at just 17 years of age, and was inspired against the third seed in the draw, pushing him all the way. But in the end it was the Azeri who prevailed 12:11. Opetaia was distraught after his loss but he will be back.
Belarusian Siarhei Karneyeu began his bout with Julio Torres Castillo in extraordinary fashion, flying out of the blocks and unleashing a flurry of combination punches to completely overpower the Ecuadorian in the first round. Karneyeu, a bronze medallist at the 2011 AIBA World Boxing Championships, boxed clever in the remaining two rounds, cornering his opponent before hurting him with some good variations of uppercuts and hooks to claim a 21:12 victory. The 23-year-old from Belarus will now face Mammadov for a place in the semi-finals.
After taking the first round, Ali Mazaheri from Iran was warned three times for persistent fouling and was subsequently disqualified from his contest against Cuban Jose Larduet Gomez.
It was Super Heavyweight (91+kg) next as the giant Kazak Ivan Dychko took to the ring versus Erik Pfeifer from Germany. In the end it was very one-sided as the imposing Dychko gave nothing away, using his height but also his excellent technique to land several punishing uppercuts in rounds two and three. The 21-year-old AIBA World Boxing Championships bronze medallist from Kazakhstan was just too good on the night and won in style 14:4.
Orthodox Frenchman Tony Yoka, 2010 Youth Olympic gold medallist, looked inspired coming into his fight against Simon Kean from Canada, using that stinging jab of his and moving nimbly across the canvas before unleashing a couple of lightening quick one-two combinations to take the first round. The Canadian 23-year-old came back more positive in the second, roughing up his rival by moving in to fight up close, throwing some thunderous straight rights to completely turn the tide in the bout. With Kean now ahead on points coming into the third, he repeated his tactic of getting in Yoka’s face but the French 20-year-old held firm to draw level. However on count-back the victory was awarded to the Canadian who will now face Dychko in the quarter-finals.
2008 Beijing Olympic Games silver medallist Zhilei Zhang from China made his experience count as he battled past Australian Johan Linde in style, taking the first round by a clear five points. In the second the gifted Chinese 29-year-old threw an unstoppable right hook that sent Linde to the canvas and after recovering in time from the eight count, the referee stopped the contest with the Australian unsteady on his feet.
The crowd were up on their feet as the MC announced the final bout of the evening between Great Britain’s Anthony Joshua and Erislandy Savon of Cuba, the nephew of three-time Olympic boxing gold medallist Felix Savon. Second seed Joshua, 22, began on the front foot, dictating the tempo from the centre of the ring, using the jab before letting fly with those sumptuous hooks of his. The Brit had a slight height advantage but Savon was moving extremely well, light on his feet, looking to score vital points with well-placed shots. The great British hope’s straight right was however repeatedly piercing through the Cuban’s guard but Joshua just did enough to edge it 17:16 after a tense final round.
The British Super Heavyweight (91+kg) declared after the fight, “It was tough, it was the first time I fought a Cuban. He was unlike anyone I had boxed before, a great mover, elusive and completely different to any style I had faced”. On the atmosphere, “In the ring, you are in the zone and you have a different perspective than from the outside so when I am fighting, it is just me and my opponent, only afterwards did I notice the crowd”.
Tomorrow sees the second round of preliminaries for the Lightweights (60kg) with Ukraine’s Lomachenko scheduled to begin his assault of the Olympic title. The Middleweights (75kg) will also be in action.