The quarter finalists of the 2008 Olympic Games boxing competition have been found after the completion of the 48kg, 51kg and 75kg preliminaries in the Workers’ Gymnasium on Saturday.
In one of the best bouts of the tournament so far, Ireland’s Darren John Sutherland staged an incredible comeback to win his 75kg bout against Nabil Kassel (ALG) RSCH in round four. With the score at 4:4 after the first round, Kassel edged ahead 10:9 with some solid body blows before Sutherland hit top gear. A 5:3 third round gave the European Union champion the lead at 14:13 before he stretched that lead to 21:14 when the referee stopped the contest.
"I always enjoy myself out there," Sutherland said. "At the end of the day, I’m in there to fight and to enjoy myself.
"Right to the end I didn’t know if I was ahead or behind. You never know if the crowd is cheering for you or against you."
Other key bouts in the 75kg preliminaries saw 69kg Olympic champion and two-time world championship bronze medallist Bakhtiyar Artayev beat two-time defending world champion Matvey Korobov (RUS) 10:7. In a see-saw bout indicative of the quality of these two athletes, Korobov led 2:0 before Artayev led 4:3 at the end of two rounds. Korobov reclaimed the lead at 7:6 at the end of the third before Artayev finished the stronger.
In the evening session, local hero and two-time world champion Zou Shiming went close to being knocked out of the tournament when he was held to an intense 3:3 draw by France’s Nordine Oubaali, who he had beaten in the semifinals of the AIBA World Championships Chicago 2007, before winning the 48kg clash on count back.
"I studied him a lot and he studied me also, so we knew each other well," Zou said. "I knew the situation would be tough. My coach told me that I should pay more attention to him, even if I had beaten him before.
"When the score is close, the pressure is big but the support of the crowd was helpful."
Oubaali’s coach Dominique Nato was proud of his charge. "Nordine did a great job. He wasn’t only fighting the world champion but also the crowd."
The rising star of the day has to be India’s 51kg Jitender Kumar. The 20-year-old beat Athens quarterfinalist Tulashboy Doniyorov (UZB) 13:6 in an incredible display of power and precision.
"I am very much delighted with this victory," Kumar said. "In fact, my teammate Akhil (Kumar) had fought Doniyorov and he knew a lot about him. We talked about today’s bout last night. I couldn’t sleep well and Akhil kept telling me I had to win."