Ukraine's Lomachenko set to headline medal rounds
LONDON -- Vasyl Lomachenko is scheduled to show off his sweet skills at a perfect time to erase a sour taste in the Olympic boxing tournament.
Ukraine's sublime lightweight and defending Olympic gold medalist returns to the ring against Puerto Rico's Felix Verdejo on Monday in the first bout of the second men's quarterfinal session. The winner is guaranteed a medal, and Lomachenko is likely to get his first test in London.
Lomachenko didn't appear stressed about the bout while watching his teammate, top-seeded heavyweight Oleksandr Usyk, in his own quarterfinal bout Sunday night.
Usyk grinded out a win over Russia's Artur Beterbiev, but other heavyweights turned the card into an eyesore.
Belarus' Siarhei Karneyeu and Cuba's Jose Larduet both thought their clutching, grabbing opponents shouldn't be able to hold their way to a win. Most of the Olympic boxing crowd agreed, but that wasn't enough to get either fighter into the heavyweight semifinals.
Azerbaijan's Teymur Mammadov and Italy's Clemente Russo might not have pretty styles, but they'll be Olympic medalists next week.
Mammadov beat Karneyeu on a tiebreaker despite repetitively tying up Karneyeu in the second half of the fight, and Russo beat Larduet 12-10 with a depressingly similar strategy to close the first round of quarterfinal bouts at the London Games.
After Belarus and Cuba immediately protested the losses, AIBA, boxing's governing body, swiftly conducted reviews Sunday night, rejecting both protests about 90 minutes after the last bout.
Karneyeu lingered in the ring after his loss, crying and shaking his head in disbelief. When Larduet fell victim to a similar decision about 15 minutes later, the Belarusian came back up the fighters' tunnel and intercepted Larduet on the way out of the ring, holding up Larduet's hand as the real winner.
Mammadov and Russo are hardly the first heavyweights in boxing history to make up for their exhaustion or skill deficiencies by holding, but the referees in their bouts didn't deem the holding severe enough to penalize them.
Their opponents strongly disagreed -- and their protests seemed to have significant precedent in a tournament that already features two overturned results by AIBA. It overturned the result of Indian welterweight Krishan Vikas' victory over Errol Spence of the U.S. team, determining Vikas committed nine unpenalized holding fouls in the final round alone.
Instead, Mammadov and Russo advance to a semifinal that could resemble a slow dance at a high school prom.
Azerbaijan bantamweight Magomed Abdulhamidov's knockdown-filled victory over Japan's Satoshi Shimizu last Wednesday was reversed by AIBA. Shimizu then beat Algeria's Mohamed Ouadahi 17-15 in their quarterfinal Sunday, securing Japan's fourth-ever boxing medal.
Shimizu slumped to his knees in joy after the fight, a stark contrast with his anger over his apparent loss in his last bout. Abdulhamidov fell to the canvas six times in the third round and had to be helped from the ring after his win, leading AIBA to reverse the result and expell the referee who allowed the fight to continue.
Although the increasingly wacky men's tournament got upstaged by the women's Olympic debut this weekend, everybody who wins from now on is guaranteed a medal.
Before the last two heavyweight fights, bantamweight Luke Campbell clinched the dominant British team's first boxing medal of the Olympics, riding the crowd's overwhelming support to a 16-15 victory over Bulgaria's Detelin Dalakliev.
John Joe Nevin clinched Ireland's first medal in any event at the games with a 19-13 victory over promising pro prospect Oscar Valdez of Mexico. Nevin's semifinal bout is against top-seeded Lazaro Alvarez of Cuba, who beat Brazil's Robenilson Vieria.
Nevin appeared more relieved than elated. Valdez dropped Nevin to the canvas in the third round with a vicious hook to the body. The decision left Valdez in tears and unable to speak as he failed to secure the first boxing medal since 2000 for Mexico, perhaps the world's greatest boxing nation.
"Oscar Valdez will be a world champion someday," Nevin said. "I honestly believe that. He caught me with a cracker of a shot. He's a strong opponent, but he seemed to be tiring, and he started missing some punches. ... It means a lot to me to win this medal, and hopefully I can change it into a different color."
After lightweight Nicola Adams won her opening bout in the first women's Olympic tournament earlier Sunday, Britain had six men and three women in position to win medals in its home Olympics. Campbell took the first step with a closer-than-expected win.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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