Day four of the London 2012 Olympic Games and it was the turn of the Men’s Light Fly (46-49kg) and Light Welterweights (64kg) to step on to the ring in the first round of preliminaries at the ExCeL arena. The afternoon session bore witness to eleven pulsating contests.
First up in the Light Flyweights (46-49kg) was the exciting 20-year-old Yosbany Veitia Sotoof Cuba against the teenager Billy Ward, winner of the AIBA Oceania Olympic Qualifying Event Canberra 2012. The Australian fought valiantly but just could not handle the speed and accuracy of the lightening quick Cuban southpaw who seemed to be hitting the target every time he let fly. Veitia Soto looked a class above his opponent and the spectators were really enjoying the movement and footwork on show as he recorded an emphatic 26:4 victory. He will now face the reigning Olympic Champion from China Shiming Zou for a place in the quarter-finals.
The fast-paced action continued with two of this weight category’s rising stars as Italy’sManuel Cappai and Mark Barriga from the Philippines battled it out in spectacular fashion. Both these 19-year-olds have bright futures ahead of them and it told as the skills on show had the crowd on the edge of their seats. The Filipino though was too quick for the taller Cappai, catching him with several deft hooks which rocked the Italian in the first round. Barriga speed was causing havoc and he continued to dominate as he landed several hard lefts to triumph 17:7. The young southpaw received a few tips from his compatriot Manny Pacquiao before flying out to London and although he finds himself in the tough part of the draw, many expect him to challenge for honours.
2008 AIBA Youth World Boxing Championships bronze medallist Jeremy Beccu faced the 28-year-old Beijing Olympian and veteran of four AIBA World Boxing Championships Birzhan Zhakypov of Kazakhstan. The orthodox Frenchman was by no way overawed by the pedigree of his opponent as he went toe-to-toe with him and finish the first round level on points with both throwing a lot of punches. In the second, Beccu dictated proceedings from the centre of the ring, landing a couple of sweet uppercuts to take the round by a single point. Zhakypov’s intelligent selection of shots saw him turn the fight to and record a 18:17 success against the positive 21-year-old from France. Zhakypov versus Barriga promises to be an electrifying fight.
The all-African contest between 24-year-old African Champion Thomas Essomba and the talented Abdelali Daraa from Morocco did not disappoint with the Cameroon orthodox on top of his opponent from the first bell. Moving well around the ring, Essomba’s experience told as he continually varied his approach and caught his rival with some telling combinations connecting with their intended target. 21-year-old Daraa was knocked to the canvas after being caught by a devastating left midway through the second and from there the confident man from Cameroon closed out the fight with a 13:10 win.
Essomba beamed after his win, declaring, "I am very happy with this victory, my tactic was good and I hit him with some good shots. I feel great". On his preparations for the Games, he added, "Training in Cardiff with the Road to London program gave me a wonderful opportunity to spar with some quality fighters and as I result I feel stronger, fitter and more confident". When told his next opponent was Patrick Barnes, he said, "It does not matter who I face, if I am better I will win".
The final Light Flyweight (46-49kg) bout of the afternoon session saw 20-year-old promising Indian Devendro Singh Laishram pit his wits against teenage unknown quantity Bayron Molina Figueroa of Honduras. This one was over in the blink of an eye as the Indian fighter completely overawed his opponent in the first round, hurting him with two exquisite punches for which Molina Figueroa had to take two standing eight counts and when he got caught again, the referee stepped in to end the contest. Laishram will face a much sterner test when he battles the fourth seeded Mongolian Serdamba Purevdorj in the next round of preliminaries.
23-year-old 2009 AIBA World Champion Roniel Iglesias Sotolongo of Cuba and Colombia’s seasoned Cesar Villarraga Aldana then locked horns in the first of six Light Welterweight (64kg) contests. The class of the Cuban southpaw shone through as he out boxed his opponent with some clever movement. Throwing a high volume of punches, Iglesias Sotolongo scored highly in the first round before controlling the tempo in the final two to cruise to a comfortable 20:9 victory over the 26-year-old Colombian. It will be the reigning AIBA World Champion Everton Lopes dos Santos next for the Cuban.
"I felt good, I felt strong, I boxed well and that is what matters", declared Iglesias Sotolongo after the fight. On facing Lopes dos Santos, he said, "He is very fast and I will need to up my level to beat him, but I feel confident".
The action was unrelenting as South American Championships winner Anderson Rojas Minaand 21-year-old Uktamjon Rahmonov of Uzbekistan went head-to-head. Rahmonov looked calm and composed against the Ecuadorian teenager, applying constant pressure and throwing powerful one-two combinations. In the second round, the Uzbek southpaw connected with huge overhead left and Rojas Mina had to take a standing eight count and from then on, it was one-sided as Rahmonov went on to win convincingly 21:10.
Turkey’s Yakup Sener, 21, who won the AIBA European Olympic Qualifying Event Trabzon 2012, began brightly against the inexperienced Serge Ambomo from Cameroon, throwing fast combinations to great effect as he raced into a three point lead after the first round. Ambomo, 26, was eager to impress but was too erratic at times and was leaving himself open to too many counters from his rival who also took the second round. The crowd were willing on the orthodox boxer from Cameroon whose spirit could not be faulted but he could not prevent being defeated 19:10 by Sener. The young Turk will now battle Rahmonov with a place in the quarter-finals at stake.
It was a noble effort by Jamel Herring in the fourth Light Welterweight (64kg) bout versus 21-year-old Daniyar Yeleussinov from Kazakhstan, the 2010 Asian Games winner. The US Marine Corp from North Carolina was untested at international level and the gulf in class was obvious as Yeleussinov picked his punches at will in the first two rounds and slowly wore down the American southpaw. By the third, the Kazak fighter was floating around his opponent and catching him with some hard one-twos. Yeleussinov eased into the second round of the preliminaries with a slick 19.9 victory.