Joshua makes his grand entrance
The evening session of the fifth day of competition at the London 2012 Olympic Games saw the Bantam (56kg), Heavy (91kg) and Super Heavyweights (91+kg) once again take to the ring at the ExCeL arena where the atmosphere was absolutely electric.
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.
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 SavonCotilla 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.
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