It was the second round of preliminaries for the Men’s Lightweights (60kg) and Middleweights (75kg) in the afternoon session of the sixth day of competition at the London 2012 Olympic Games. The packed ExCeL arena was once again treated to some top-class action.
It was a sensational start to the day with the first of the Lightweight (60kg) bouts seeing 24-year-old Vasyl Lomachenko, the top seed in the draw, against the Dominican Republic’s Wellington Arias Romero. Widely considered the best pound for pound Olympic boxer, the Ukrainian was just a cut above his opponent, effortlessly moving across the canvas, biding his time before picking his spots.
A great mover, Lomachenko, the two-time AIBA World Champion, was being economical with his shots but when he did let fly, he was so accurate, a sweet left uppercut in the first round typifying that. Just to prove class, just as the round came to a close, he threw a one-two combination to the body before unleashing a right uppercut that caught Arias Romero square in the jaw. It continued like that in the remaining two rounds as the Ukrainian eased into the next round with a 15:3 win.
The action continued with Tunisia’s Ahmed Mejri battling it out with the orthodox Puerto Rican Felix Verdejo Sanchez in a very entertaining contest. Verdejo Sanchez was using his reach, moving well before pouncing with some good hooks as he took the first and second rounds in style. The same shots continued to be very effective in the final round as the 22-year-old from Puerto Rico booked his place for the quarter-finals where he will face the supreme Lomachenko after winning 16:7.
The contest between Kazakhstan’s AIBA World Championships bronze medallist Gani Zhailauov and Jai Bhagwan began fast and furiously with two quick operators going head-to-head. The Kazak’s footwork was just sensational as he danced around his opponent, looking to land the big overhead. The taller Indian’s defences were tight however and he was able to soak up the pressure before waiting for the perfect opportunity to land those hard right hands as he took the first. The nimble orthodox Zhailauov changed tack in the second and used much more variation in his punches and he got instant results as his rival was unable to cope with his speed as he scored heavily. In the third, the Kazak continued to dictate proceedings again to claim a 16:8 victory.
Cuban fourth seed Yasnier Toledo Lopez, silver medallist at the AIBA World Boxing Championships Baku 2011, took time to get into his stride against China’s Qiang Liu in the last Lightweight (60kg) contest of the session. Tentative in the first, the 21-year-old southpaw from Cuba was showing a lot of respect for his opponent who had looked very accomplished in his previous fight. Liu was standing firm to the unrelenting attacks of Toledo Lopez but the Cuban did enough to take the bout 14:10 and set up a meeting with Zhailauov in the next phase of the competition.
With several members of the Royal Family attending, including the Duke of Edinburgh, the much anticipated Middleweight (75kg) showdown between Great Britain’s Anthony Ogogo and the AIBA World Champion and top seed in the draw Ievgen Khytrov of Ukraine had the raucous crowd up on their feet from the first bell. 23-year-old Ogogo started off positively, throwing the jab then looking to land with the straight right on several occasions, a good left hook and a precise uppercut saw him take the first round. The long arms of the Brit were giving him good protection as the Ukrainian looked to land those body shots, then with another good left hook, he seemed get the upper hand but Khytrov came back with a right, and in the blink of an eye Ogogo had taken two standing eight counts in the closing stages of the second round. A sensational third saw the two boxers go toe-to-toe for three minutes with both trading a high volume of power punches. On count back, it was the British orthodox fighter who went through on count-back.
Ogogo was delighted after the win, declaring, “You have to believe in yourself and I certainly believed I could win. The Olympic Games are meant to inspire and I know I was inspired”.
Stefan Härtel of Germany was brilliant against Irish team captain Darren O’Neill, the European Championships silver medallist, working the body early on and showing real intent throughout the three rounds. Both boxers played their part in a scintillating contest but the desire of the German 24-year-old ensured he progressed 19:12 to meet Ogogo for a place in the semi-finals.
“It was very hard but we were well prepared for that. I had sparred with him a few months ago. The victory was deserved. I am now one win away from a medal and I want it”, said Härtel after his success.
Then the crowds were treated to a professional performance by Hungary’s Zoltan Harcsa which saw the 20-year-old orthodox dominate the powerful Namibian Mujandjae Kasuto from the first bell, using his superior technique throughout their encounter. The Youth Olympic Games bronze medallist had too much for his African rival, seamlessly landing every punch he threw as he recorded an emphatic 16:7 win.
The final bout of the evening saw tough Esquiva Falcao Florentino confirm his status as a gold medal contender with a quality performance against Soltan Migitinov of Azerbaijan. The Brazilian orthodox AIBA World Championships bronze medallist showed great tactical awareness as he constantly moved around the tough Azeri to outpoint his rival in each round and cruise to a 24:11 victory. Esquiva Falcao will now meet Zoltan Harcsa with a guaranteed bronze medal awaiting the winner.