London, Great Britain, 02 August 2012 – Day sixth of the London 2012 Olympic Games boxing competition at the ExCeL arena and there were four bouts in each of the Lightweight (60kg) and Middleweight (75kg) categories in the evening session.
Valentino vs. Taylor
The action began with 2009 AIBA World Champion Domenico Valentino of Italy against the tall British southpaw Josh Taylor in the first Lightweight (60kg) contest. With a capacity crowd there to support the local boxer, the atmosphere was absolutely electric. Taylor started positively, landing with some good jabs but the experienced Italian orthodox fighter’s excellent shot making skills and quick counter punching saw him connect more times to take the first round. In the second, Valentino continued with his clever game plan, drawing in the Brit before throwing quick one-twos. Taylor was however now getting more results with his selection of punches as the points were shared in the second. The eccentric Italian’s movement in the third enabled him to land some clean hits and stamp his authority on the round, as he moved into the quarter-finals with a 15:10.
The Italian declared after his victory, “The fight went well for me but I did not box the way I should have. Taylor was very strong, he fought well. The crowd made it a lot harder but I knew how to handle it, having experienced it before”.
Powerful Lithuanian Evaldas Petrauskas, the Youth Olympic Games Champion, put on a show of controlled aggression against sixth seed Fatih Keles of Turkey. His unrelenting style was wearing down his opponent in the first two rounds as he worked the body with a succession of crisp hooks before looking for the opening to strike with the uppercut. The 20-year-old from Lithuania seems to relish fighting taller opponents, drawing them in to fight at close quarters before looking to pierce through their defences with some vicious shots. Striking fear into his rivals, 20-year-old Petrauskas is an old fashioned brawler who gets the crowd on the edge of their seats with the sheer amount of punches he throws. Although leaving himself sometimes open to getting the counter, he continues to move forward unfazed. Keles, his latest victim, put up a good fight but was ultimately defeated 16:12. The quarter-final showdown between Petrauskas and Valentino will be a real clash of styles.
20-year-old Jose Ramirez of the USA, who had come out on top in one of the stand-out fights of the first round of preliminaries, faced experienced Uzbekistani southpaw Fazliddin Gaibnazarov in the third bout of the evening session. The intensity level and the movement of Gaibnazarov were simply exquisite as he dominated the young American in the first two rounds to go into the third with a seven point cushion. Ramirez boldly threw caution to the win and went for broke, throwing his full repertoire of shots to claim that round but it was unfortunately too late and the 21-year-old Uzbek moved into the next phase of the competition.
In the final Lightweight (60kg) contest of the evening, the draw’s accomplished Belarusian second seed Vazgen Safaryants faced Soonchul Han. The tall South Korean orthodox fighter looked comfortable in the early exchanges, using his reach and throwing some stiff straight one-twos. After losing the first round, Safaryants came back strong, moving in close before looking to land with those sweet left hooks of his, the southpaw managing to claw back his two point deficit to draw level going into the final round. It was a good fight with both boxers going for it and the end result told as the scores were drawn. Impressively it was the underdog who was awarded the victory on count-back and Han will now battle Gaibnazarov for a shot at the semi-finals.
The Middleweights (75kg) then made their entrance with two-time AIBA World Champion Abbos Atoev first up against third seeded Romanian Bogdan Juratoni. The experienced Uzbek had looked lethargic in his previous contest but with an opponent now intent on attacking him, his slick counter punching style was coming into its own as he took the first round with some accurate hooks. The 22-year-old Juratoni, a bronze medallist at last year’s AIBA World Boxing Championships, was more measured in the second and caught his rival with good punches to reduce his deficit to just one point coming into the final round. Conditioning and stamina told in the latter stages as Atoev dug deep to claim a 12:10 victory.
There was a huge cheer from the crowd for the next two boxers as the USA’s Terrell Gausha went head to head with Vijender of India. The two orthodox fighters were trading jabs early in the first round before the noise levels in the arena went up when the taller Indian threw a couple of hard hooks to edge it. In the second, the 26-year-old Vijender began as the aggressor but the American stood firm and with both throwing lots of punches, the round was shared. The third was tense and both were once again evenly matched, Gausha tried hard but the Indian showed more endeavour to win it 16:15.
On the pressure he was feeling, Vijender said, “All of London is watching me and I know the whole of India is too. I know they love me and want me to do well and I love them back. I feel the pressure on me but I am used to it.”
Turkey’s Adem Kilicci had really impressed in his previous bout and looked to continue that form early on against Aleksandar Drenovak from Serbia as he dictated proceedings from the centre of the ring with a good variation of punches to take the first round. The 26-year-old orthodox Turk was simply irresistible in the second as he scored heavily. Drenovak played his part in a good fight but his opponent was just too good and Kilicci’s excellent performance, full of verve and passion, saw him advance to the quarter-finals in style with a 20:11 victory.
Number two seed Ryota Murata of Japan began in spectacular fashion with his trademark body shot-uppercut combination putting 26-year-old Algerian Abdelmalek Rahou in some difficulty early on. After taking the first round, the tall Japanese began throwing some vicious hooks to exert his authority on Rahou, who although was being dominated gave a good account of himself. Murata showed his class to confirm his status as one of the gold medal contenders by notching up an impressive 21:12 success in his first bout of the competition. He now faces Kilicci in what promises to be an explosive encounter.
Tomorrow sees the Men’s second round of preliminaries for the Flyweight (52kg) and Welterweight (69kg) categories.