In the final day of men’s boxing Quarterfinal action, one division’s 2008 gold medalist had to edge by controversially and is looking vulnerable at age 31 (Zou Shiming), one division saw an upset that aroused a lot of passion (Munkh-Erdene Uranchimeg vs. Thomas Stalker) and in another division, the consensus class of the division was knocked off (Julio la Cruz Peraza). The day closed, naturally, with a bit of ugliness, thanks to the officiating in Oleksandr Gvozdyk-Abdelhafid Benchabla.
(Yamaguchi Falcao Florentino celebrates his upset victory; photo via London 2012 Olympics website)
Light Flyweight 49kg/108lb
Zou Shiming (China)-Birzhan Zhakypov (Kazakhstan) 13-10: Zhakypov had an argument for winning every round, including a dominant 3rd when Zou just ran and held and made virtually no clean contact. Instead, the 1st was tied (fine) the 2nd was 5-3 for Zou (not really) and the 3rd was 5-4 for Zou (definitely not). When the Olympics come back at boxing next time, one of the rules changes they should consider is forcing refs to break fighters more often, because too many fighters are trying to suck the drama out of the 3rd rounds by clinging, literally, to their leads, and the clinched fighter is more often than not the one getting penalized, for trying to free himself.
Paddy Barnes (Ireland)-Devendro Singh Laishram (India), 23-18: I thought this could be a good match-up, and it started with fists a-flyin’ in the 1st, only for Barnes to win the 2nd big, in small part thanks to a warning to Laishram, who was trying to head butt his way out of a clinch. Things equalized in the 3rd as far as point totals due to warnings, though, when Barnes tried to cling to his lead and the referee answered my prayers from the Zou fight by shifting some points to Laishram with a warning to Barnes for holding. Forced to fight, Barnes actually did, and the 3rd ended hot, with Barnes the rightful victor.
David Ayrapetyan (Russia)-Ferhat Pehlivan (Turkey), 19-11: Neither man really distinguished himself in the first two-thirds of the bout, with Ayraypetyan outhustling Pehlivan to build a lead that was somewhat wider than deserved. The Russian rectified that lack of distinguishment by sending Pehlivan wobbling into the ropes on a nice shot to get an eight count in the 3rd.
Kaeo Pongprayoon (Thailand)-Aleksandar Aleksandrov (Bulgaria), 16-10: I wasn’t able to catch this one in its entirety, but I saw the smaller Thai fighter picking apart the taller Bulgarian from the outside with timed lunges and counters, then smothering on the inside, the inverse of the way things usually play out with a tall/short match-up. Apparently it worked.
Light Welterweight 64kg/141lb
Roniel Iglesias Sotolongo (Cuba)-Uktamjon Rahmonov (Uzbekistan), 21-15: When I was all, like, “Rahmonov probably won’t be trouble for Iglesias” beforehand, I didn’t envision him having as good a 1st and 3rd as he did against the Cuban. But the huge, 12-4 2nd for Iglesias, when he looked like a different specimen entirely and was aided by a referee warning to Rahmonov for slapping, made it all academic.
Vincenzo Mangiacapre (Italy)-Daniyar Yeleussinov (Ukraine), 16-12: A tight 1st for Mangiacapre, disputed scoring for him in the 2nd and a legitimately big 3rd for him led the Italian into the Semis.
Munkh-Erdene Uranchimeg (Mongolia)-Tom Stalker (Great Britain), 23-22: Stalker and Uranchimeg went to town on each other, and the Brits have shown that when in against a better opponent they will not, for the most part, be outworked. This time, I thought Uranchimeg’s “better” trumped Stalker’s “more,” and after some early controversial results involving British fighters on their home soil, the decisions have evened out a bit. Different people on Twitter thought Uranchimeg won comfortably or Stalker was robbed, whereas I thought it was a close fight and have no problem with the score, nor would’ve with Stalker winning.
Denys Berinchyk (Ukraine)-Jeff Horn (Australia), 21-13: Sloppy, mauling bout, but Berinchyk was too physical for Horn to start and then began dialing in sharp counters in the 2nd after wearing him down some. I thought Horn rallied some in the 3rd, even bloddying the Ukranian’s nose, but it wasn’t enough to make up the points deficit and in fact wasn’t enough to win the round, either, which Horn dropped 6-9.
Light Heavyweight 81kg/178.5lb
Yamaguchi Falcao Florentino (Brazil)-Julio la Cruz Peraza (Cuba), 18-15: Big, big upset. La Cruz had the aura of being a full head above the rest of a division with a lot of parity, but he did an awful lot of posturing for two and a half rounds and when he would attack, Falcao would catch him with counters, even scoring what should’ve been a knockdown at the beginning of the 3rd. La Cruz finally fought like he should’ve to finish the 3rd, and might’ve had Falcao hurt by the way the Brazlian was holding and stumbling, but it was too late for all that.
Egor Mekhontcev (Russia)-Elshod Rasulov (Uzbekistan), 19-15: Even through two on the cards and in reality, too, the Russian shifted into another gear in the 3rd with a score of 9-5 and even dropped Rasulov with a body shot.
Adilbek Niyazymbetov (Kazakhstan)-Ehsan Rouzbahani (Iran), 13-10: Rouzbahani had two punches — a noodle-armed jab and a nasty overhand right — but did some good work with them, including a 2nd round knockdown that had Niyazymbetov very hurt. The first two rounds could’ve gone either way, really, including the 2nd, because knockdowns aren’t worth the kind of extra points they are in the pro game. All three of them went to Niyazymbetov, the more versatile fighter, in a bout where both men traded flush, hard shots.
Oleksandr Gvozdyk (Ukraine)-Abdelhafid Benchabla (Algeria), 19-17: A relatively even 1st that went to Benchabla morphed into what looked like a Gvozdyk whitewash in the 2nd to me, but it was even through two on the cards, 11-11. The 3rd would prove needlessly controverial in what was otherwise a good fight. Govozdyk earned one standing eight count by driving Benchabla back to the ropes. The second standing eight count made no sense, because both men had their bearings and were landing big shots. Then, the referee gave Benchabla a warning as the round ended for holding, which resulted in two points for Gvozdyk. If he had issued it earlier, it wouldn’t have been totally inappropriate, but there was nothing about the moment the ref chose to issue the warning that stood out, and the two point shift was decisive.