Ireland’s John Joe Nevin upset Cuban world bantamweight champion Lazaro Alvarez Estrada to move a step away from emulating team mate Katie Taylor’s rare Irish gold after 10 men’s Olympic finalists were decided today.
Men’s semi-final day, when the fights come thick and fast, is often the highlight of boxing’s two weeks at the Olympics but after the women’s stunning exploits yesterday, the opening session felt like one big come down.
While Nevin sprung the surprise of the session, Ukrainian Denys Berinchyk produced one of the tournament’s best rounds, scoring more points in three minutes than most have managed in nine, and China’s Zou Shiming just about kept his hopes of a second successive Olympic gold alive.
Yet the women, who capped an absorbing debut at the Games with three wonderful finals, were still the talk of the arena and Nevin said Taylor’s victory in front of a huge Irish crowd had inspired the rest of the team.
Nevin proved too quick for Estrada, catching the Cuban time and again with decisive left upper cuts to boss every round and take the contest 19-14. The 23-year-old Irishman said he thought Estrada “kind of gave up” halfway through the final round, allowing him a spot of showboating described by his coach as the “Mullingar Shuffle” after Nevin’s hometown.
He next faces Britain’s Luke Campbell in a rematch of their razor tight world championship semi-final of a year ago. The pair’s families are friends and while Campbell eased through his semi, today’s evidence suggested that the Nevin clan might be the happier after Saturday’s Anglo-Irish final.
Estrada’s team mate Roniel Iglesias Sotolongo, one of three Cuban fighters left going for a gold that evaded the great amateur boxing nation four years ago, was an impressive winner in his light-welterweight semi and takes on Berinchyk next.
The Ukrainian trailed all-action Mongolian Munkh-Erdene Uranchimeg by three points after the first two rounds of their bout only to score an incredible 17 points in a blistering final round to end up a comfortable 29-21 winner.
Fellow Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk bulldozed his way to the heavyweight final where he should be too strong for Beijing silver-medallist Clemente Russo of Italy, a lucky winner over Azerbaijani teenager Teymur Mammadov. Brazil will go for a first boxing gold in tomorrow’s middleweight final after Esquiva Falcao Florentino was far too good for Britain’s Anthony Ogogo.