American Light Flyweight (49kg) Nico Hernandez’ win over Ecuador’s Carlos Quipo Pilataxi on Wednesday evening in Rio de Janeiro propelled him into the Olympic Semi-Finals and a guaranteed place on the podium. It also gave coach Billy Walsh cause to celebrate, being his first Olympic medal since joining Team USA from the Irish camp last year.
“This morning was history for me winning my first Olympic medal outside of Ireland and to win a medal with the USA is a great honour,” said Billy Walsh after watching Gary Russell deliver his team’s second victory of Day Five. “The mood in the camp is really good and we’ve been successful so far and that breeds more success. Everybody wants to be on that podium.”
The Rio 2016 Boxing Tournament has already provided plenty of excitement for the thousands of fans flocking each day to Riocentro Pavilion 6, and the buoyant atmosphere has played its part in creating a unique Olympic competition.
“As far as the Olympic Games go, we want to go into the ring with the best in the world and to win medals wherever they are, but the atmosphere here has been great. It fires the guys up and makes them perform,” Walsh continues. “There are two things you can do when you walk out into that kind of atmosphere: perform like a champion or sink.”
The USA coach was an Olympic boxer himself in 1988, four years after the introduction of headguards at the Los Angeles Games. Rio 2016 sees the men boxing without head protection for the first time since, a move that Billy Walsh views as positive for the sport.
“People are adapting to not having headguards, its going well and there aren’t as many cuts as there were in 2013,” says Walsh. “People are learning how to box without them.”
Day Six will see Team USA take a break from the boxing action to focus on training before Hernandez’ crucial Semi-Final with Hasanboy Dusmatov on Friday afternoon, followed by Carlos Balderas’ Lightweight last eight match against Cuba’s Lazaro Alvarez.