Ladies and gentleman, meet your first batch of 2012 Olympic gold medalists in men’s boxing: Zou Shiming of China, Luke Campbell of Great Britain, Roniel Iglesias Solotongo of Cuba, Ryota Murata of Japan and Oleksandr Usyk of the Ukraine. Two of the five get to the top of the medal stand a bit controversially, as you might expect of this tawdry event.
(Roniel Iglesias Sotolongo, right, and Denys Berinchyk, left; photo via London 2012 Olympics website)
Light Flyweight 49kg/108lb
Zou Shiming (China)-Kaeo Pongprayoon (Thailand), 13-10: My thesaurus has exhausted all the synonyms for “outrage,” “disgrace,” etc., so I’ll just call this one dumb. And, duh, of course Zou won. He had an argument for winning the 1st, and the 2nd was close for Pongprayoon, but Zou came into the 3rd with a 6-4 lead. The 3rd was all Pongprayoon, without question, but the judges gave him that one, too. It looked like Zou was going to lose it double-big, when the ref gave him a warning for holding that usually means two points to the other guy, but then the ref came back seconds later for no reason and warned Pongprayoon, too. It didn’t matter, though, because the judges have given the prior gold medal holder every advantage in London, so Zou would’ve won without the unjust penalty.
Bantamweight – 56kg/123.4lb
Luke Campbell (Great Britain)-John Joe Nevin (Ireland), 14-11: Nevin had impressed me as one of the finds of the 2012 Games, and he’ll probably be a nice pro, but Campbell was just better Saturday and he delivered in front of a raucous home crowd. Things started relatively even to me, but the judges scored it 5-3 for Campbell. Campbell continued to score in the 2nd, but Nevin rallied at the final minute to take the round, 5-4. But Campbell was back in control against a pressing Nevin in the 3rd, even scoring a knockdown.
Light Welterweight 64kg/141lb
Roniel Iglesias Sotolongo (Cuba)-Denys Berinchyk (Ukraine), 22-15: It should’ve been a closer 1st round for Iglesias if he won it at all, with Berinchyk leading and Iglesias waiting. But once Iglesias stood his ground in the 2nd and 3rd in Berinchyk’s ideal range, he was dominant, picking him apart with shorter shots and lovely, hard combinations. He beat him at his own game, and beat him particularly in the 3rd, another previous comfort zone for Berinchyk. Both of these men would be wonderful pros.
Middleweight – 75kg/165.3lb
Ryota Murata (Japan)-Esquiva Falcao Florentino (Brazil), 14-13: Murata lured Falcao into a phone booth war in the 1st, but Falcao got on his toes and did some excellent sticking and moving in the 2nd. The bout was decided in the 3rd round by a warning to Falcao that shifted two points to Murata, which was unfortunate more than unjust. Falcao was holding a ton in the 2nd and 3rd as he tired and tried to keep Murata at range. It’s just too bad. He was better than Murata for two of the three rounds and has to go home with silver because of the ref’s decision to dock him. Murata takes home Japan’s second-ever boxing gold.
Heavyweights – 91kg/200.6lb
Oleksandr Usyk (Ukraine)-Clemente Russo (Italy), 14-11: It was no cakewalk, as Usyk didn’t resemble the killer from the Quarterfinals and Russo flummoxed him with his movement and was pretty good. They went into the 3rd even, where Usyk began boxing very smartly, punching and turning. He got rid of the Games’ most annoying fighter, and endeared us to himself further with a nifty dance after his hand was raised. Best dance of the Olympics, even. Take that, rhythmic gymnastics!