The A.I.B.A and organisers LOCOG were delighted that there was not a single available space left in the arena as the crowd gathered in anticipation for the first of the six Lightweight contests which pitted the tall Josh Taylor from Great Britain against the explosive Brazilian Robson Conceicao.
The British southpaw started off well, moving with assurance around the ring andconnecting with some clever left hooks to take the first round. The native of Scotland grew in confidence in the second and was clearly lifted by the loud cheers of the partisan crowds, mixing his shots to great effect as he hit his target with a couple of hard jabs and a penetrating right hook. Soaking up the pressure from the 23-year-old Brazilian, Taylor survived a late flurry to triumph 13:9, to the delight of the supporters. He will now face third seed and 2009 AIBA World Champion Domenico Valentino for a place in the next phase of the competition.
Taylor was beaming after his win, saying, “I had a game plan and I stuck to it, I thought it was very close but with the crowd behind me, I was buzzing”.
Stocky 20-year-old Lithuanian Evaldas Petrauskas’ aggressive style really applied the pressure on Hungary’s Miklos Varga from very early on in their contest. 24-year-old Varga, part of the Italian World Series of Boxing Franchise which won the WSB Team Trophy this season, was strong, landing some quality shots himself but he just could not contain the unrelenting assaults of the 2010 Youth Olympic Games winner. Petrauskas, who was at the Road to London three week training camp in the build-up to these Games, is one that no one will want to face after his resounding 20:12 victory.
Sixth seed Fatih Keles of Turkey shaded the first round against the confident Algerian Abdelkader Chadi of the Paris United WSB Franchise. The tactical 22-year-old Keles’ defensive master class had 2008 Olympian Chadi in trouble in the second, catching him with some deft counter-punches to score high in the second. In the end, the classy Turkish orthodox fighter comfortably won 15:8 and moved into the second round of the preliminaries where he will lock horns with the hard-hitting Petrauskas.
It was very tentative between Uzbek southpaw Fazliddin Gaibnazarov and Yhyacinthe Mewoli Abdon in the first round with both seemingly unwilling to get caught by the other. It livened up in the second as each boxer took turns trying to make the breakthrough, but it was the Uzbek 21-year-old who connected with solid punches to take a three point advantage over the taller Cameroon boxer coming into the final round. Gaibnazarov was light on his feet in the third, gliding away from his onrushing opponent before planting some good left hooks on his way to a 11:6 success.
It was an intriguing match-up between France’s WSB Paris United star Rachid Azzedine and teenage American sensation Jose Ramirez. Sporting bright yellow shoes, the US orthodox fighter went toe-to-toe with the Frenchman, ten years his senior, and came out on top in the first round after alternating body and head shots to great effect. It was an explosive fight as both boxers battled it out in the centre of the ring and it was once again Ramirez who just shaded it as his speed told. The crowd were really enjoying this one with punches being thrown by both fighters from all angles. The American orthodox rocked Azzedine with a couple of vicious straight lefts but the Frenchman retaliated with some hard punches of his own to take the final round but it was Ramirez who progressed with a narrow 21:20 win.
The American reflected on his success by declaring, “I am happy with my performance, it was tense, I was nervous in the beginning and just wanted to do well for the team. We are a young squad and we are all hoping to do really well”. On the shoes, he laughed, “I just like the colour, you know when you look good, you feel good”.
In the last of the Lightweight (60kg) bouts, tall orthodox South Korean Soonchul Han looked comfortable against 25-year-old Mohamed Eliwa of Egypt. Using his height and reach advantage throughout their contest to win each round comfortably and inflict a 11:6 defeat on his opponent. Hun will now battle the accomplished Belarusian second seed Vazgen Safaryants for a place in the quarter-finals.
It was then the turn of the Welterweights (69kg) to take to the canvas and first up was the clash of the heavy-hitters, 28-year-old Brazilian Myke Ribeiro de Carvalho and Errol Spence from the United States. It was the young American southpaw who took the initiative early on with some effective jabs, before effectively working the body in the second as the experienced Ribeiro de Carvalho looked rattled and devoid of ideas. Spence looked dangerous on route to a 16:10 victory; he will now lock horns with India’s Krishnan Vikas in the second round of preliminaries.
There was a huge cheer for 25-year-old Adam Nolan when he entered the arena, with a huge number of Irish supporters having travelled to support their compatriot. The tall southpaw was pitted against Carlos Sanchez Estacio and began on the front foot, hounding down his opponent before looking to inflict damage with the straight one-two. The Ecuadorian packs some power in his punches and caught Nolan with several hard overheads but the Irishman’s clever use of the jab saw him take all three rounds and prevail 14:8.
Nolan rejoiced at his victory by saying, “It felt unbelievable to be out there. I did not perform to my best but the Olympics are after all my first major tournament, so I will get better”.
A high-intensity bout between China’s Qiong Maitituersun and 25-year-old southpaw Andrey Zamkovoy enthralled the crowd from the first bell with the Russian straight out of the blocks and landing with some hard shots. The Chinese winner of the AIBA Asian Olympic Qualifying Event Astana 2012 showed tremendous resilience in the face of the onslaught, managing to connect with punches of his own. Zamkovoy’s height and power made the difference in each round as he booked his place in the next phase of the competition by triumphing 16:11.
The 23-year-old South African with a growing reputation, Siphiwe Lusizi, controlled his bout with the inexperienced Iraqi Ahmed Abdulkareem Ahmed, hitting his target with some good combinations before reverting to some slick counter-punches as Ahmed came forward. The southpaw looked at ease, dominating each round to cruise to a 17:13 victory. Much sterner tests now await Lusizi.
With a vocal team supporting him, Ecuador’s Gabriel Maestre Perez began brightly versus Amin Ghasemi Pour of Iran. The 25-year-old Perez will have been pleased with his performance as he landed some punishing left hooks and generally dominated proceedings against his inexperienced opponent. The Ecuadorian had the measure of his rival to win 13:8 and book his place in the next round where he will face Lusizi.
Closing the day’s action were Japan’s 24-year-old Yasuhiro Suzuki and the 2008 Beijing Olympian Moroccan orthodox Mehdi Khalsi. There was nothing to separate the two as they traded blows throughout the first two rounds. The Japanese southpaw went on the offensive in the third as he trailed his rival by a single point, firing several one-twos to claw his way back to claim a hard-fought 14.13 win.
Monday sees the Men’s Fly (52kg) and Light Heavyweights (81kg) take to the canvas over twenty bouts divided over two sessions.