By Sean Waisglass: Canadian featherweight Benoit Gaudet fought his way to his second big Olympic victory on Monday (Aug 16) in Athens. The 24 year-old 57kg boxer had to battle the Canadian Olympic Committee to get to Athens in the first place, then proved his worth by defeating the 1996 Gold medallist Somluck Kamsing of Thailand on points 32-17.
Benoit, of Drummondville, Quebec, was one of three boxers who had to appeal to the COC in order to be sent to the Games after qualifying in Brazil by international standards. The COC had made a decision behind closed doors decreeing that boxers that didn't rank in the top 12 of their division wouldn't be sent to the Olympics.
Unfortunately, nobody told the athletes still trying to qualify in Brazil. Guadet, along with Trevor Stewardson, who has advanced in the 81kg division, and 75 kg middleweight Jean Pascal, who was knocked out by Cuban Yordani Herrera in the first round, all successfully appealed. The three boxers were given the OK to head to Greece only three weeks ago. They protested on the grounds that the meet in Rio was as competitive as the two earlier qualifying events, and that if their wins were good enough by international standards, they should be good enough by the standards of their own country.
Gaudet pounded this point home in the ring Monday, showing his world-class skills by turning up the pressure round by round and ultimately dominating Kamsing. The first two sessions were intense counter punching chess matches that saw Benoit bouncing in and out of range and using a sharp jab/right combo counter to take a slim 10-8 lead at the halfway point.
Gaudet made a key adjustment in the third and through the first half of the fourth, electing to bounce around the perimeter of the ring and lead Kamsing into counter right hands. Kamsing's low-slung left would be his undoing as Gaudet spiked in rights off a quick jab or as a lead punch.
Despite a 25-15 advantage halfway through the fourth round, a charged up Gaudet changed up and attacked his opponent over the last minute of the bout instead of protecting his lead. The Canadian finished strong and sent a message to the other inhabitants of the division, using aggressive combinations to flurry his way to a confidence-boosting victory.
According to CBC analyst Russ Anber, former trainer of pros Otis Grant and Hercules Kyvelos, Gaudet became the first Canadian boxer to defeat a former champion at the Games. The win will now boost the spirits of the small Canadian team, who have been whittled down to three after Pascal and Adam Trupish (69kg) were eliminated over the weekend. Along with Gaudet and Stewardson, Andrew Kooner, who received a first round bye in the 54kb division, remain.
Another plus for the Canadians is the coaching of Stephane Larouche of Montreal. Larouche, head trainer for the Interbox stable, has worked with two professional world title holders in Eric Lucas and Leonard Dorin. Larouche joined the troubled team at the eleventh hour after their former coach quit in July.
August 16, 2004.