It was the Men’s semi-finals for the Light Flyweight (46-49kg), Bantamweight (56kg), Light Welterweight (64kg), Middleweight (75kg) and Heavyweight (91kg) categories in the afternoon session of the fourteenth day of competition at the London 2012 Olympic Games. There was not an empty seat available at the ExCeL arena with raucous support there once again to cheer on the athletes.
In the opening contest of the day, it was the first of the Light Flyweight (46-49kg) semi-finals between triple AIBA World Champion Shiming Zou of China and the charismatic Irishman Paddy Barnes. A very tactical first round saw Barnes looking to dictate from the centre as he harried Shiming Zou, trying to corner him before unloading. Unfortunately, the expert counter-puncher from China connected with several exquisite shots to take the high scoring first round. The speed of the reigning Olympic Champion told in the second but a more measured approach from the Irish 25-year-old saw the round drawn on points. The experienced Barnes fought back hard in the third to claw his way back to end on parity 15:15 but unfortunately Zou was awarded the victory on count-back. It was the second successive Olympic Games in which the Chinese 31-year-old has eliminated Barnes.
The diminutive Russian David Ayrapetyan tried to stamp his authority in his Light Flyweight (46-49kg) bout with the experienced Kaeo Pongprayoon of Thailand, but was met with stiff resistance as the first round was tied. The savvy and experienced Thai orthodox then used his reach to good advantage as he hit his target on the counter on more than one occasion to edge the second by a point. In the third, European Champion Ayrapetyan had to go in search of victory but the Russian southpaw could not find the breakthrough, as 32-year-old Pongprayoon held on to win 13:12, to set-up a meeting with Zou in the final.
The Thai stating afterwards, “I am proud to have got this far and I know the whole of Thailand is behind me now that I am going for gold”.
In the first of the Bantamweight (56kg) contests, AIBA World Champion Lazaro Alvarez Estrada of Cuba battled Irishman John Joe Nevin. Some good penetrating right hands ensured two-time AIBA World Championships bronze medallist Nevin took the first round by two points. The Irish 23-year-old continued to box out of his skin to take the second with some sublime shots that Alvarez Estrada could just not deal with. In the third, Nevin was simply irresistible and feeding off the atmosphere in the packed arena, he defeated the top seed in style 19:14.
Nevin beamed, “I am over the moon. I have always said I am up there with the best in the world. I proved it by beating the top guy and I know am still getting better”.
Great Britain southpaw Luke Campbell began on the front foot against the tall Satoshi Shimizu of Japan, keeping his defences tight to move inside and throw some good one-twos and take the first round by three points. Sticking to his clever game plan, the home boxer continued to cause all sorts of problems for his opponent, as the overhead now was coming into play and once again the 24-year-old Brit was dominant as he went into the last round with a five point cushion. Campbell was looking comfortable in the closing stages as he unleashed several telling shots on his way to recording a comprehensive 20:11 victory; he now faces Nevin in the final.
2009 AIBA World Champion Roniel Iglesias Rotolongo of Cuba faced intelligent operator Vincenzo Mangiacapre in the first of the Light Welterweight (64kg) semi-finals and began well, using the jab before throwing the straight to take the first round. The Italian 23-year-old was struggling to cope with the speed of his rival and had to concede the second round with Iglesias boxing so well. The Cuban continued to dictate proceedings with that right hook and uppercut working perfectly in final round to triumph 15:8.
Deciding who would meet Iglesias Rotolongo in the final, Mongolia’s Munkh-Erdene Uranchimeg, backed by vociferous support, pitted his wits against the second seed Denys Berinchyk from Ukraine. It was the 30-year-old Mongolian southpaw who began the brightest, connecting with several good left straights in the first before upping the tempo and scoring vital points with some quality body shots to take a fast and furious second. Berinchyk battled back in the third, with a huge right rocking his rival who had to take a standing eight count, then drawing in his opponent to fight at close quarters as the final stages became a slug fest. The Ukrainian had his opponent right where he wanted him as they went toe-to-toe, in Berinchyk territory, where there could only be one winner: It proved correct as Berinchyk won 29:21.
The first Middleweight (75kg) semi-final had Great Britain’s Anthony Ogogo facing Brazilian southpaw Esquiva Falcao Florentino in an intriguing contest. Tentative by both in the first, the points were shared. After that, the brawny Falcao Florentino threw several hard punches as he looked to make his power count against the Brit. It told as he scored vital points at the end of the second to go into the final round with a three point advantage. Ogogo looked out of sorts after that, devoid of ideas and simply unable to cope with the endeavour of his opponent who was moving very well. Falcao Florentino was in complete control as cruised to a 16:9 victory.
It was Uzbekistan’s 2009 AIBA World Champion Abbos Atoev versus Japanese second seed Ryota Murata in the second Middleweight (75kg) semi-final. The 26-year-old orthodox fighter from Japan and the Uzbek southpaw went toe-to-toe in the first where Atoev is the master and it told as he landed some stinging hooks to take the round. Gathering his senses, Murata now tried to keep his distance, with the jab ensuring parity in the second. In the third, the Japanese mounted a sensational comeback to claw his way back into the fight and inflict a 13:12 defeat on his opponent. It will now be Ryota against Falcao Florentino in the final.
Heavyweight (91kg) battle of the bruisers as top seed Oleksandr Usyk from Ukraine went head-to-head with Bulgarian giant Tervel Pulev. Usyk’s class told almost instantly as he had the upper hand in the opening exchanges, sending his rival to the canvas with a huge right to take the first round by four points. It was more of the same in the second and third rounds, as the power and skill of the 24-year-old Ukrainian saw him connect with an array of shots, which included two exceptional uppercuts and some devastating straights, as he recorded a resounding 21:5 victory.
“It may seem easy to win, but it is not, it really is not. It is thanks to my team, my family and my supporters”, declared Usyk.
2008 Beijing Olympic Games silver medallist Clemente Russo then battled the tall Azeri AIBA World Championships silver medallist Teymur Mammadov to decide who would box Usyk in the Heavyweight (91kg) final. The teenager from Azerbaijan was making his reach count with some good one-twos as he edged it in the first, before then unloading some good hooks in the second that had Russo in all kinds of trouble as he took two standing eight counts. Trailing by three points, Russo threw caution to the wind in the third, landing some big overheads to overturn his deficit and win 15:13.
The evening session will see the Men’s semi-finals for the Flyweight (52kg), Lightweight (60kg), Welterweight (69kg), Light Heavyweight (81kg) and Super Heavyweight (91+kg) categories entertain the crowds at the ExCeL.