The fast and furious boxing action at the London 2012 Olympic Games resumed Sunday at the ExCeL with the first preliminary bouts of the Lightweight (60kg) and Welterweight (69kg) categories.
There was not a single available space left in the arena as the crowd gathered in anticipation for the first of the six Lightweight contests which pitted the tall Josh Taylor from Great Britain against the explosive Brazilian Robson Conceicao. The British southpaw started off well, moving with assurance around the ring andconnecting with some clever left hooks to take the first round. The native of Scotland grew in confidence in the second and was clearly lifted by the loud cheers of the partisan crowds, mixing his shots to great effect as he hit his target with a couple of hard jabs and a penetrating right hook. Soaking up the pressure from the 23-year-old Brazilian, Taylor survived a late flurry to triumph 13:9, to the delight of the supporters. He will now face third seed and 2009 AIBA World Champion Domenico Valentino for a place in the next phase of the competition.
Taylor was beaming after his win, saying, “I had a game plan and I stuck to it, I thought it was very close but with the crowd behind me, I was buzzing”.
Stocky 20-year-old Lithuanian Evaldas Petrauskas’ aggressive style really applied the pressure on Hungary’s Miklos Varga from very early on in their contest. 24-year-old Varga, part of the Italian World Series of Boxing Franchise which won the WSB Team Trophy this season, was strong, landing some quality shots himself but he just could not contain the unrelenting assaults of the 2010 Youth Olympic Games winner. Petrauskas, who was at the Road to London three week training camp in the build-up to these Games, is one that no one will want to face after his resounding 20:12 victory.
Sixth seed Fatih Keles of Turkey shaded the first round against the confident Algerian Abdelkader Chadi of the Paris United WSB Franchise. The tactical 22-year-old Keles’ defensive master class had 2008 Olympian Chadi in trouble in the second, catching him with some deft counter-punches to score high in the second. In the end, the classy Turkish orthodox fighter comfortably won 15:8 and moved into the second round of the preliminaries where he will lock horns with the hard-hitting Petrauskas.
It was very tentative between Uzbek southpaw Fazliddin Gaibnazarov and Yhyacinthe Mewoli Abdon in the first round with both seemingly unwilling to get caught by the other. It livened up in the second as each boxer took turns trying to make the breakthrough, but it was the Uzbek 21-year-old who connected with solid punches to take a three point advantage over the taller Cameroon boxer coming into the final round. Gaibnazarov was light on his feet in the third, gliding away from his onrushing opponent before planting some good left hooks on his way to a 11:6 success.
It was an intriguing match-up between France’s WSB Paris United star Rachid Azzedine and teenage American sensation Jose Ramirez. Sporting bright yellow shoes, the US orthodox fighter went toe-to-toe with the Frenchman, ten years his senior, and came out on top in the first round after alternating body and head shots to great effect. It was an explosive fight as both boxers battled it out in the centre of the ring and it was once again Ramirez who just shaded it as his speed told. The crowd were really enjoying this one with punches being thrown by both fighters from all angles. The American orthodox rocked Azzedine with a couple of vicious straight lefts but the Frenchman retaliated with some hard punches of his own to take the final round but it was Ramirez who progressed with a narrow 21:20 win.
The American reflected on his success by declaring, “I am happy with my performance, it was tense, I was nervous in the beginning and just wanted to do well for the team. We are a young squad and we are all hoping to do really well”. On the shoes, he laughed, “I just like the colour, you know when you look good, you feel good”.
In the last of the Lightweight (60kg) bouts, tall orthodox South Korean Soonchul Han looked comfortable against 25-year-old Mohamed Eliwa of Egypt. Using his height and reach advantage throughout their contest to win each round comfortably and inflict a 11:6 defeat on his opponent. Hun will now battle the accomplished Belarusian second seed Vazgen Safaryants for a place in the quarter-finals.
It was then the turn of the Welterweights (69kg) to take to the canvas and first up was the clash of the heavy-hitters, 28-year-old Brazilian Myke Ribeiro de Carvalho and Errol Spence from the United States. It was the young American southpaw who took the initiative early on with some effective jabs, before effectively working the body in the second as the experienced Ribeiro de Carvalho looked rattled and devoid of ideas. Spence looked dangerous on route to a 16:10 victory; he will now lock horns with India’s Krishnan Vikas in the second round of preliminaries.
There was a huge cheer for 25-year-old Adam Nolan when he entered the arena, with a huge number of Irish supporters having travelled to support their compatriot. The tall southpaw was pitted against Carlos Sanchez Estacio and began on the front foot, hounding down his opponent before looking to inflict damage with the straight one-two. The Ecuadorian packs some power in his punches and caught Nolan with several hard overheads but the Irishman’s clever use of the jab saw him take all three rounds and prevail 14:8.
Nolan rejoiced at his victory by saying, “It felt unbelievable to be out there. I did not perform to my best but the Olympics are after all my first major tournament, so I will get better”.
A high-intensity bout between China’s Qiong Maitituersun and 25-year-old southpaw Andrey Zamkovoy enthralled the crowd from the first bell with the Russian straight out of the blocks and landing with some hard shots. The Chinese winner of the AIBA Asian Olympic Qualifying Event Astana 2012 showed tremendous resilience in the face of the onslaught, managing to connect with punches of his own. Zamkovoy’s height and power made the difference in each round as he booked his place in the next phase of the competition by triumphing 16:11.
The 23-year-old South African with a growing reputation, Siphiwe Lusizi, controlled his bout with the inexperienced Iraqi Ahmed Abdulkareem Ahmed, hitting his target with some good combinations before reverting to some slick counter-punches as Ahmed came forward. The southpaw looked at ease, dominating each round to cruise to a 17:13 victory. Much sterner tests now await Lusizi.
With a vocal team supporting him, Ecuador’s Gabriel Maestre Perez began brightly versus Amin Ghasemi Pour of Iran. The 25-year-old Perez will have been pleased with his performance as he landed some punishing left hooks and generally dominated proceedings against his inexperienced opponent. The Ecuadorian had the measure of his rival to win 13:8 and book his place in the next round where he will face Lusizi.
Closing the day’s action were Japan’s 24-year-old Yasuhiro Suzuki and the 2008 Beijing Olympian Moroccan orthodox Mehdi Khalsi. There was nothing to separate the two as they traded blows throughout the first two rounds. The Japanese southpaw went on the offensive in the third as he trailed his rival by a single point, firing several one-twos to claw his way back to claim a hard-fought 14.13 win.
Kicking off proceedings in the first of the six Lightweight (60kg) bouts in the afternoon session was the exciting Dominican Republic’s Wellington Arias Romero against orthodox Eduar Marriaga Campo. It was the southpaw who started brightly, throwing lots of punches with the straight left hitting its target several times. A bit of showboating by the Dominican and the clever use of the jab saw him once again score heavily with that straight left. Arias Romero’s superior technique continued to have his Colombian opponent on the back foot in the final round as he recorded an impressive 17:8 victory.
It was an all-African affair when Ahmed Mejri of Tunisia and Benin’s Shafiq Chitou came together in the ring. Chitou looked lively in the early exchanges, connecting with a good left hook but as the round progressed, the orthodox Mejri just soaked up the pressure and picked his spots to edge it. It was more of the same as the somewhat erratic Chitou failed to hit his target and the southpaw had to again concede the round to the measured Mejri. The crowd was cheering loudly for Chitou but his opponent’s effective counter-punching saw him suffer a 16:9 defeat.
When asked about the support he received from the crowd, Chitou replied, “It was great, I have never experienced an atmosphere like it”. And on his preparations before the Games, the 27-year-old decorator added, “I have to thank AIBA for inviting me to train with the Road to London program, it was a wonderful opportunity for me to give a good account of myself here at the Olympic Games, I will never forget it”.
Puerto Rican Felix Verdejo Sanchez, the winner of the AIBA American Olympic Qualifying Event Rio 2012, showed his class against the inexperienced 20-year-old Juan Huertas Garcia from Panama in the third bout of the day, putting in a polished performance that saw him prevail 11:5.
27-year-old fifth seed Gani Zhailauov of Kazakhstan, a bronze medallist at the AIBA World Boxing Championships Baku 2011, faced the speedy Thai Saylom Ardee in a fast and furious contest that had had the crowd up on its feet. Peppering each other with loads of punches; it was the orthodox Thai who took the first round after giving his opponent a bloody nose. It was compelling viewing as Zhailauov battled back with some powerful punches to level the scores after round two. The spectators were treated to a real boxing feast in the final round as both fighters went for it. When the winner was announced, there was heart-break for 26-year-old Ardee as the victory was given to Zhailauov on count back with 12:12 the final result.
The capacity crowd was then introduced to the Seychelles’ 19-year-old Andrique Allisop, who had also taken part in the three-week AIBA Road to London training program in Cardiff in the build-up to London 2012. The young pretender was pitted against the experienced 27-year-old Jai Bhagwan and his youthful exuberance counted against him as the orthodox boxer from India effectively counter-punched the onrushing teenager throughout. In the end, it was Bhagwan who progressed after winning 18:8 and he will now face Zhailauov in the next preliminary, looking to make it third time lucky after having lost to the Kazak in their previous two meetings.
Allisop was realistic about his performance, saying, “I learnt a lot, he moved better than me and was more economical with his punching and I need to now raise my game. I am young and have just moved up to Lightweight so I will be back in four years a much better boxer. Training in Cardiff with the Road to London program was also a real eye-opener for me”.
Chinese 29-year-old Qiang Liu put in a clinic against Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Luke Jackson from Australia, increasing the pressure in each round with swagger and class, using clever movement and devastating combinations as he emphatically won 20:7. The crowd really got behind the entertaining orthodox fighter who really impressed. A late bloomer, Liu has only really come to the fore in the last year or so. His next opponent will be the AIBA World Boxing Championships silver medallist Yasnier Toledo Lopez.
On facing the Cuban in the next round, Qiang Liu declared, “I have studied him a lot; he is very fast so I will need to have strong defences and counter-punch”.
In the first of the six Welterweight (69kg) bouts of the session, tough Moldovan southpaw Vasilii Belous had the measure of Selemani Kidunda from the first bell, using his jab and his reach to keep his opponent at bay before unloading some devastating straight one-twos. Rocking the 28-year-old from Tanzania several times as he recorded a 20:7 victory, University World Champion Belous will be in confident mood when facing the top seed from Ukraine Taras Shelestyuk in the next phase of the competition.
The experience of Mongolia’s Tuvshinbat Byamba really shone through in his battle with 24-year-old Yannick Mitoumba Mbemy from Gabon. Quality footwork and a thunderous overhead right were the signature moves by the 25-year-old and the man from Gabon just could not contain the classy Byamba. Efficiently smooth, the Mongol was imperious in every department as he prevailed in style 17:4.
Flamboyant Frenchman Alexis Vastine, part of the victorious Paris United team in the World Series of Boxing first season, looked to make his punches do the talking against the compact 20-year-old Patrick Wojcicki. The orthodox Vastine often looks more concerned with style rather than substance but knowing that the German represented quite a dangerous opponent, he knuckled down and did the business over three rounds to win 16:12. It was a very entertaining fight between the 25-year-old soldier from Normandy and the German prospect.
“I under-performed in Beijing four years ago after having put too much pressure on myself, so this year I want to enjoy the Olympic experience and take one fight at a time. Next up for me is Mongolia’s Byamba, who is a top class boxer, so I will need to box clever once more”.
Powerful Custio Clayton is still developing as a fighter but has been in fine form of late. Coached by Daniel Trepanier, Clayton is said to have a very bright future and proved he has big credentialsafter triumphing 12:8 against Mexico’s talented former AIBA Youth World Champion Oscar Molina Casillas, a silver medallist at the AIBA American Olympic Qualifying Event Rio 2012.
The highlight of Australia’s Oceania Champion Cameron Hammond’s bout was a devastating right that forced Moustapha Abdoulaye Hima to take a standing eight count midway through the second round. It was a pulsating contest between two relatively untested boxers at this level. In the third, the Australian stepped up a level to take control of proceedings against the 20-year-old from Niger to move deeper into the competition with a well-earned 13:6 victory. He now faces Clayton for a place in the quarter-finals.
Great Britain’s reigning European Champion Freddie Evans raised the roof at the ExCeL when he made his way to the ring for the ultimate contest of the afternoon session. The orthodox fighter from Cardiff faced the lightening quick Algerian Ilyas Abbadi and put on a real show for the vocal spectators out to support the home boxer. It was tight but the Brit’s superior shot making saw him score points with several penetrating combinations. Evans showed quality defensive skills too as the Algerian looked to make up his five point deficit in the third. The Welshman even took time to entertain the crowd with a few shuffles before throwing some hard combinations. The orthodox Brit comfortably won 18:10 and will now face third seed and the man who defeated him at the AIBA World Boxing Championships last year, Lithuania’s Egidijus Kavaliauskas. On his next opponent, Evans said, “When I lost against him in Baku, I was not focused. His style suits me so this time there will be no mistakes”.
Tomorrow sees the Men’s Fly (52kg) and Light Heavyweights (81kg) take to the canvas over twenty bouts divided over two sessions.