Wednesday’s two sessions at the Rio 2016 Boxing Tournament saw twenty three bouts across five weight categories, featuring a total of 35 different nations in action. The day concluded with all four Semi-Finalists confirmed in the Men’s Light Flyweight (49kg) and Heavyweight (91kg) competitions, while the preliminaries continued with the Bantamweight (56kg), Light Welterweight (64kg) and Light Heavyweights (81kg).
Cuban prodigy Johanys Argilagos cemented his reputation as both a consummate showman and potential Olympic Light Flyweight Champion with a dazzling display against Kenyan Peter Warui. It was a lesson in the art of boxing from the 19 year-old that left Warui chasing shadows and made Argilagos’ the first name into the last four, guaranteeing bronze but looking firmly on course for Sunday’s final.
Colombia’s Yurberjen Martinez then booked his place in the Semi-Finals in an evenly balanced bout against Spain’s Samuel Heredia. Having earier put Irish fourth-seed Patrick Barnes out of the competition, Heredia again looked positive, but Martinez was in uncompromising mood, establishing an unassailable lead after two rounds and cruising to the last four.
The Bantamweights got their first taste of Rio 2016 action, with Armenia’s Aram Avagyan edging a split decision against before Thailand’s Chatchai Butdee powered into the second round with an impressive attacking display against Britain’s Qais Ashfaq. One of only four Rio 2016 athletes to hail from the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu, Boe Warawara, managed to cause Vladimir Nikitin a few problems with his rights, but could not halt the Russian’s march into the second round.
At Light Welterweight, Mongolian Chinzorig Baatarsukh overcame Qatar’s Thulasi Tharumalingam, then Armenia’s Hovhannes Bachkov recovered from a first-round knock-down to record a memorable win over Venezuelan Luis Arcon and China’s Qianxun Hu progressed by Walkover against Mexican Raul Curiel.
The Light Heavyweight second round saw Julio Cesar La Cruz’s first Rio 2016 appearance as he booked his place in the last eight with a typically assured display of boxing against Turkey’s Mehmet Unal. La Cruz will meet Brazilian Michel Borges, who was visibly lifted by thousands of cheering fans as he entered the ring and worked hard to keep Croatia’s Sep Hrvoje at bay. Both boxers absorbed some fierce punches, but it was Borges who impressed the judges to earn a unanimous decision and send the crowd wild.
The Heavyweights rounded off the morning session, with top-seed Evgeny Tishchenko towering 15cm over his Italian opponent Clemente Russo, who looked to come in close and neutralise the Russian’s longer reach. It was a tactic that paid off for long periods, but Tishchenko’s quick-fire jabs proved too powerful and earned a Semi-Final spot against Rustam Tulaganov. The Uzbek came back brilliantly having been knocked down by Azeri Abdulkadir Abdullayev at the end of the first round, guaranteeing himself at least a bronze medal and a shot at the Olympic Final.
Day Five’s evening session got off to a flying start as Uzbekistan’s Hasanboy Dusmatov booked a place in the last four of the Light Flyweight (49kg) competition with a comprehensive display against Kazakhstan’s three-time Olympic quarter-finalist Birzhan Zhakypov.
Nico Hernandez then followed up Monday’s brilliant victory over Russian second-seed Vasilli Egorov with three brave rounds against Ecuador’s Carlos Quipo Pilataxi. With an Olympic medal at stake, the pair boxed with raw determination and skill, but the American’s stronger final round proved decisive as he joined Dusmatov in the semis.
The lively Belarusian Dzmitry Asanau faced Dominican Republic’s Hector Luis Garcia in the first Bantamweight (56kg) match of the afternoon, and a balanced contest tipped in Asanau’s favour thanks to a frenetic final round in which he narrowly outscored Garcia across the three minutes.
The Mongolian team continued their successful run in the lower weight categories as Tsendbaatar Erdenebat went on the offensive against Kenyan Benson Njangiru early on, dropping him to the canvas midway through the second round and putting the match beyond his opponent’s reach.
With the crowd thoroughly warmed up, the Riocentro venue burst into life for the arrival of Brazilian Robenilson de Jesus, who edged the first round against Algeria’s Fahem Hammachi with some intuitive counter-attacks. De Jesus stuck with his tactics in the second and third to win by split decision, the announcement raising the roof in Pavilion 6.
London 2012 Quarter-Finalist Fazliddin Gaibnazarov took no chances against Congo’s Dival Malonga Dzalam in a cagey opening round of the session’s first Light Welterweight (64kg) bout, but the Uzbek landed enough big punches as the match wore on to secure a TKO win and set up a tie against India’s impressive-looking Manoj Kumar on Sunday.
Haiti’s sole boxer at Rio 2016, 18 year-old Richardson Hitchins, ensured he will be a name to watch for the future after a stirring Olympic debut in which he came up against the equally determined Gary Russell, and it was Russell’s big lefts that finally proved too hot for Hitchins to handle, setting the American on his way to the last 16.
The Light Heavyweight (81kg) preliminaries continued with APB champion Mathieu Bauderlique sending out a clear message to the rest of the field thanks to a decisive win over Colombia’s Juan Carlos Carrillo, before Ecuador’s Carlos Mina continued to enjoy his Rio 2016 campaign with a breathless win over a Ireland’s Joe Ward.
Two Heavyweight (91kg) Quarter-Finals rounded off the day’s action, with Vassiliy Levit in uncompromising mood against Kennedy St Pierre of Mauritius. The big Kazakh looked dangerous from the outset as he controlled the bout to set up a mouthwatering Semi-Final encounter with Erislandy Savon. The Cuban number two seed saw off the challenge of Argentina’s Yamil Peralta to guarantee himself at least an Olympic bronze.