London, Great Britain, 05 August 2012 – One of the heart warming stories of London 2012 is that of Ihab Almatbouli’s older brother promising the Royal family of Jordan back in 2007 that either he or his brother would become the first Jordanian boxer to participate in the Olympic Games. The promise was kept as Ihab made it to the second round of preliminaries in the British capital.
Ihab Almatbouli of Jordan
After the 26-year-old came third at the AIBA Asian Olympic Qualifying Event Astana 2012 in May to book his place for the biggest show on earth, Ihab Almatbouli was invited to the three-week training camp before the Olympic Games as part of the AIBA Road to London program to ensure that he was well prepared for his debut.
Ihab Almatbouli made history by becoming the first ever boxer from his country to compete at the Olympic Games when he defeated Nigeria’s Lukmon Lawal during the first round of preliminaries. On the eighth day of competition, he then put on a brave showing against Cuban Team Captain Julio la Cruz Peralta as members of the Jordanian Royal Family watched on. He was gracious in his defeat to the first seed and was real credit to both himself and to his country. There was huge respect between la Cruz Peralta and Almatbouli at the end of their bout, exemplifying all that is good about the sport.
Other Road to London participants were also in action. Cameroon’s Thomas Essomba worked extremely hard against 2008 Beijing Olympic Games bronze medallist Paddy Barnes, catching him with some good shots in both the first and the second round. Unfortunately, the class of the 25-year-old Irishman told as Essomba bowed out of the competition.
Teenage Filipino Mark Barriga also did himself proud by taking one round in his defeat to Kazakhstan’s Birzhan Zhakypov by mixing up his shots and landing some good punches. Overall though, Zhakypov’s experience told and his know-how allowed him to dominate the bout. The potential of the diminutive southpaw from the Philippines will surely see him come back in four years and compete for medals at Rio 2016.
Osmar Bravo Amador became the first boxer from Nicaragua to box at the Olympic Games since 1996 and was another of the Road to London participants to excel in the first round of preliminaries. He battled hard in the second round of preliminaries against Ukraine’s AIBA World Boxing Championships quarter-finalist and European Cup winner Oleksandr Gvozdyk but could not claim the victory.