A packed Riocentro Pavilion 6 on Sunday witnessed the first gold medal of the Rio 2016 Olympic Boxing Tournament, as Uzbekistan’s Light Flyweight (49kg) Hasanboy Dusmatov delivered a superb performance against Colombia’s Yurberjen Martinez to win the Olympic title.
The day also saw the first contests in the Women’s Middleweight (75kg) competition, the Men’s Bantamweight (56kg) and Light Heavyweight (81kg) preliminaries and two Lightweight Semi-Finals.
Dusmatov had been made to work hard to reach Sunday’s final and came up against an in-form Colombian who had himself overcome the much-fancied Cuban Johanys Argilagos in the semis. There was little to call between the two boxers early on, but Dusmatov grew into the bout, combining some rapid-fire combinations with resolute defence, and not even a third-round flourish from Martinez could stem the tide. Dusmatov became the first gold medalist of Rio 2016 and a worthy Light-Flyweight champion, while Martinez’s silver was the first-ever for Colombia.
“It is hard to express everything I am feeling right now, but I am incredibly happy and I cannot wait to get the gold medal around my neck. Thirty million people have been waiting for this moment and I know my family will be happy for me and I am thrilled to be champion,” said a delighted Dusmatov after the bout.
Earlier on in the session, it was a former Youth and a former Junior World Champion who had got the day started, with Russia’s Iaroslava Iakushina overcoming Nien-Chin Chen of Chinese Taipei before Canada’s Ariane Fortin and Kazakh Dariga Shakimova embarked on four incredibly close rounds of boxing, with Shakimova edging the judges’ decision.
The Irish World Champion Michael Conlan then began his quest for Rio 2016 Bantamweight (64kg) gold against Armenia’s Aram Avagyan. The pair traded punches in an attritional display of close-range boxing, but Conlan looked in great form on route to a unanimous judges’ decision.
The Thailand fans were out in force once again as Chatchai Butdee took to the ring to face former World Championship silver medalist Vladimir Nikitin. With honours even after two rounds, it was the Russian who managed to find another gear in the final three minutes to set up a Quarter-Final showdown with Conlan on Tuesday morning.
Mongolian Tsendbaatar Erdenebat also summoned a strong finish against Belarus’ lively 19 year-old Asanau Dzimitry to reach the last eight, before the volume soared for the arrival of Brazil’s Robenilson de Jesus and USA’s Shakur Stevenson. The American managed to avoid de Jesus’ long reach for much of their bout, and delivered a superb finale to which his opponent could find no answer.
There was no let up as two more crowd favourites, Robson Conceição and Cuba’s triple World Champion Lazaro Alvarez got a rapturous reception ahead of their crucial Lightweight (60kg) Semi-Final. Alvarez edged a nervy first round before Conceição worked his way back into the tie and, with a place in the final on the line, a frenetic finish brought the boxing pavilion to its feet, with the Brazilian making it through to Tuesday evening’s gold-medal match in dramatic fashion.
“It is hard to find the words after such an emotional triumph, but I am really happy. I had a clear strategy against the Cuban, who is an old rival of mine from other major competitions, I am in top form and I could feel the support from the amazing Brazilian fans in the venue,” said Conceição afterwards.
The Light Welterweight (64kg) preliminaries continued with Russia’s top-seed Vitaly Dunaytsev earning a unanimous win over Chinzorig Baatarsukh of Mongolia, before China’s Qianxun Hu edged a split decision against Armenia’s Hovhannes Bachkov. Uzbekistan’s Fazliddin Gaibnazarov, runner-up to Dunaytsev at last year’s World Championships in Doha, looked impressive as he progressed to the last eight with a win over India’s Manoj Kumar, where he will face USA’s Gary Russell, winner of a tight bout with Thailand’s Wuttichai Masuk.
It was Cuba versus Brazil once more in the first Light Heavyweight (81kg) bout of the day, and Julio Cesar La Cruz looked in mesmerising form as he outboxed Michel Borges to earn a Semi-Final tie against Mathieu Bauderlique, who became the third French boxer into a Rio 2016 Semi-Final with a hugely impressive TKO win over Ecuador’s Carlos Mina.
The evening session began with two more preliminaries in the Women’s Middleweight (75kg) competition, and Brazil’s Andreia Bandeira got the crowd going straight away with a tight victory over the athletic Panamanian Atheyna Bylon. Britain’s Savannah Marshall then recovered from a slow start against Sweden’s Anna Nash to set up a last 16 tie against Netherlands’ number two-seed Nouchka Fontijn.
A high-tempo bout between South Korean Ham Sangmyeong and China’s APB champion Jiawei Zhang then got the last of the Men’s Bantamweight (56kg) preliminaries under way. It was a draining match as the two traded heavy blows across the three rounds, but Zhang finally emerged with a unanimous victory. He will now meet London 2012 Flyweight gold medalist Robeisy Ramirez on Tuesday after the Cuban narrowly beat Mohamed Hamout of Morocco with a typically assured display.
Argentine Alberto Melian had put himself into a commanding position in the first round against Tunisia’s Bilel Mhamdi before the referee awarded him a second-round TKO win, and he now faces a tough Quarter-Final against Uzbekistan’s Murodjon Akhmadaliev after his exciting, exhausting victory over Kazakhstan’s Kairat Yeraliyev.
The second Men’s Lightweight (60kg) Semi-Final of the day followed, and it was France’s Sofiane Oumiha who booked a place in Tuesday’s final against Brazil’s Robson Conceição with a solid win over Mongolian Otgondalai Dorjnyambuu.
The last 16 of the Men’s Light Welterweight (64kg) was then completed, with German APB World Champion Artem Harutyunyan looking like a man in his Olympic rhythm as he found the target time and again to record an impressive win over Canada’s Arthur Biyarslanov. Turkey’s Batuhan Gozgec’s fierce combinations proved too strong for Brazil’s Joedison Teixeira, before the Azeri Lorenzo Sotomayor won an engaging bout by split decision against Amzil Hassan of France.
Britain’s Pat McCormack looked to come forward at every opportunity against the counter-attacking Cuban Yasnier Toledo in a balanced encounter that looked poised for a grandstand finish after two rounds. Toledo kept his composure throughout the final three minutes, fending off McCormack long enough to earn a split decision that saw him through to the last eight.
Britain’s Josh Buatsi came through the battle of the big hitters against Algeria’s Abdelhafid Benchabla with another assured display to reach the Light Heavyweight (81kg) Semi-Final. He was joined by Kazakhstan’s Adilbek Niyazymbetov, who conjured a brilliant display against the imposing Azeri Teymur Mammadov to guarantee himself a podium finish.