Olympic history was re-written today at the ExCeL Arena as women’s boxing made its long-awaited debut at the Games in a watershed moment for the sport. During the afternoon session of day nine of competition at the London 2012 Olympic Games, the world was introduced to the three Women’s weight categories, Flyweight (51kg), Lightweight (60kg) and Middleweight (75kg).
2010 AIBA World Champion and 2011 European Champion Elena Savelyeva from Russia got proceedings underway in the first of the Women’s Flyweight (51kg) contests versus the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea’s 27-year-old Hye Song Kim. It was Savelyeva, a bronze medalist at the AIBA World Boxing Championships Qinhunangdao 2012, who got the better of the first round with a big right hand the difference at the interval.
The Russian edged the second with a solid left hook and took the third with a sweet uppercut. In the final round, the points were shared as she progressed to the quarter-finals with a 12:9 win. 28-year-old Savelyeva will now face top seed and reigning AIBA World Champion Cancan Ren from China.
It was fast and furious in the second bout of the day as Brazilian southpaw Erica Matos went head to head with Karlha Magliocco. It was the Venezuelan who began well as she landed several good hooks to take the first. 29-year-old Matos turned the tide in the second, cornering her opponent and unleashing some good connecting combinations.
This unpredictable contest then saw 2010 Panamerican Champion Magliocco regain the initiative as the orthodox fighter dominated the third to take a slender point advantage going into the final round. In the fourth, both fighters went for it and the crowd were up on their feet as punches were thrown from all directions, but it was the Venezuelan who prevailed 15:14 to set-up a meeting with Marlen Esparza of the USA in the last eight.
Chungneijang Mery Kom Hmangte, also known as Mary Kom, the five-time AIBA Pinweight (46kg) World Champion who went up two weight categories in order to qualify for these Olympic Games, brought the house down as she made her entrance into the ring.
The Indian icon faced tough Karolina Michalczuk of Poland in what promised to be an enthralling encounter. The diminutive Kom was conceding a lot reach and height to her opponent and had to use her superior technique and shot making skills in order to not be charged down by the continually onrushing Michalczuk. It was a real clash of styles and after sharing the first round, Kom managed to land a couple of good hooks to edge the second.
In the third, the 29-year-old mother of two from India was getting to grips with her aggressive rival and was starting to land more and more punches, a huge left one of the highlights of round three. The spectators were treated to a sumptuous final round as Kom held on to record a 19:14 victory as she held back tears when announced as the winner.
An emotional Mary Kom said after her win, “This is a fantastic day, it is unbelievable for me to be here, very special. I have been fighting twelve years to get to this point, to be at the Olympic Games. It has been my life-long ambition to get here. My victory is very emotional because not only as am I finally here but it is also my twins’ fifth birthday today and I am missing it. This win is a gift to them”.
In the last of the Flyweight (51kg) bouts, Bulgaria’s Stoyka Petrova battled Siona Fernandes from New Zealand in an excellent contest between two top boxers. The 26-year-old Bulgarian made her experience count as she slowly wore down her opponent, scoring more and more as the rounds went by to move into the quarter-finals with a convincing 23:11 win.
The crowd went wild for the first of the Lightweight (60kg) fights as Natasha Jonas of Great Britain made her big entrance alongside the USA’s Quanitta ‘Queen’ Underwood. The powerful orthodox American began on the front foot, using her jab to great effect as she edged the first. The pace was unrelenting as both boxers traded punches, but a great right hook in the second saw the 28-year-old Brit take the round. Jonas began to exert more authority to dominate her rival and scored heavily in the third. A strong left followed by some good combinations in the fourth ensured the local favourite took the round and the victory. There were wild celebrations from Jonas as she was declared the winner 21:13. The British orthodox fighter now faces top seed, quadruple AIBA World Champion Katie Taylor in the quarter-finals.
26-year-old 2010 AIBA World Boxing Championships bronze medallist Cheng Dong from China and Romanian orthodox Mihaela Lacatus were pretty well matched in most departments, with the same build and the same reach. There was not much to separate the two on paper however Dong was out of the blocks much quicker and caught the experienced 30-year-old Romanian, who had come out of retirement to qualify for these Olympic Games, with several good shots in the first round. The points were then shared in rounds two and three with both unable to find a breakthrough. The Chinese stepped it up in the closing stages to wrap up a 10:5 win. She will now test herself against Tajikistan’s Asian Champion Mavzuna Chorieva for a place in the semi-finals.
The showdown between Brazil’s Adriana Araujo and Saida Khassenova of Kazakhstan was a contest out of the top drawer with both boxers really going at each other. Khassenova began well but then 31-year-old multiple-Panamerican Champion Araujo slowly picked her opponent apart with more effective punches in the latter stages. In the end, the Brazilian went on to win the bout 16:14 and she will now meet Morocco’s Mahjouba Oubtil.
In the last Lightweight (60kg) contest, tall New Zealander Alexis Pritchard faced 31-year-old Rim Jouini of Tunisia. 28-year-old orthodox Pritchard used her jab well in the first round before scoring with some good one-twos to edge it. Jouini came back in the second and upped her work rate, cornering her opponent and unleashing a couple of hard straights to take the round. Pritchard dominated the final two rounds in style, turning it on when she needed to most, with the charismatic Kiwi progressing into the quarter final stages with a well-taken 15:10 victory.
The Middleweights (75kg) were in action next as Kazak Marina Volnova locked horns with 26-year-old Elizabeth Andiego. It was a tour de force by the orthodox Volnova, moving well and looking to land with that deft left hook of hers. Her Kenyan rival struggled throughout with the accuracy of her shots and Volnova confidently won the bout 20:11 after taking each round.
Experienced 32-year-old Swede Anna Laurell battled hard against Naomi-Lee Fischer-Rasmussen, using her reach to throw good hard one-twos. The Australian 26.year-old showed huge heart and determination to try and move inside in order to score points but the Swedish star was clever and countered well to win each round. Laurell advancing to the quarter-finals with a bruising 24:17 win. She will now meet US teenage sensation Claressa Shields.
2008 World Champion Jinzi Li of China started well against the 23-year-old Brazilian Roseli Feitosa, using her power to great effect as she threw some big punches in each round. There was a quality comeback by Feitosa in the final round but unfortunately after losing the first three, it was too late as Li claimed a 19:14 victory.
The President of Azerbaijan was in the stands to lend his support to Elena Vystropova in her contest with Edith Ogoke. The Nigerian 21-year-old sprung a huge surprise as he ferocious attacks had Vystropova on the back foot in the first two round, landing some thunderous shots to take both by two points. The experienced Azeri gathered her senses in the third and started to box well with her superior technique clawing back her deficit from four to one point coming into the final round. Ogoke defied the odds as she stood firm and won the contest 14:12.