Pritchard shines at the London ExCeL Arena

London, Great Britain, August 06, 2012: Day nine of competition at the London 2012 Olympic Games and the evening session at the ExCeL Arena hosted the action once again with the Men’s Bantamweight (56kg) and Heavyweight (91kg) quarter-finals taking place before a capacity crowd.

Cuban southpaw Lazaro Alvarez Estrada, the top seed in the Bantamweight (56kg) draw, faced Robenilson Vieira de Jesus of Brazil in the first of the quarter-finals. The Brazilian orthodox fighter started off furiously, throwing the jab then the quick one-two to impressively outscore the 21-year-old reigning AIBA World Champion. In the second, the favourite stepped up the pace and looked to impose himself, pummelling his rival with some quality left straights and quick combinations to take a one point advantage going into the second. The third round, saw the Cuban connect again with that straight left with 23-year-old Vieira de Jesus also working hard but Alvarez Estrada had too much in his arsenal as he dominated the final round to win 16:11. It was a sensational way to start the evening.

One of the surprise packages of these Olympic Games so far has been 21-year-old Oscar Fierro Valdez, who impressively dispatched of fourth seed Anvar Yunusov in the previous round of the competition. The young Mexican this time battled John Joe Nevin of Ireland in a riveting encounter. Fast and furious, the two orthodox fighters were evenly matched in the first round with Fierro Valdez, the 2008 AIBA Youth World Champion, doing the chasing and forcing the Irishman onto the back foot. Nevin was forced to counter-punch but he did so expertly, taking the second by three points. He was getting to grips with the speedy Mexican in the third, landing several slick punches, with one body shots and uppercut connecting perfectly on his opponent. 2008 Olympian Fierro Valdez though caught the Irishman with the body shot of the tournament so far and Nevin had to take a knee in order to get his wind back but the 23-year-old held on to book his place in the last four with a 19:13 victory.

AIBA World Boxing Championships silver medallist Luke Campbell of Great Britain came up against savvy operator Detelin Dalakliev in the third Bantamweight (56kg) quarter-final. Bulgaria’s 2009 AIBA World Champion started off well, unsettling the 24-year-old Campbell with his offensive strategy and Dalakliev, as a result, took the round by a point. The southpaw was now trying to box his way out in the second, connecting with a couple of hard left straights but still the 29-year-old Dalakliev came back with some swift and precise counter-punches to draw the round. Now trailing, Campbell had to dig deep against an extremely tough opponent, but after landing some good combinations to both the head and the body, he scraped through to the semi-finals by the narrowest of margins and won 16:15.

It was a real clash of styles between tall Japanese southpaw Satoshi Shimizu and 25-year-old Mohamed Amine Ouadahi. The Algerian’s speed was making the difference in the first as he managed to land a few good overheads after getting past that almost telescopic jab of Shimizu’s, and he went into the second round with a point advantage. The Japanese and Ouadahi were very evenly matched in the second with both throwing a lot of punches. As both boxers began to tire, they were leaving themselves open and it is then that Shimizu’s size gave him the edge as he reverted to that jab of his to claim that remaining semi-final spot by prevailing 17:15.

Afterwards, it was the Heavyweight (91kg) boxers taking to the ring with first up the battle of the big Eastern bruisers. AIBA World Champion Oleksandr Usyk versus Artur Berbetiev of Russia was a momentous battle with two of the category’s best fighters coming together. It was brutal but delicately poised as both fighters were tied after the first round. The Ukrainian southpaw and Berbetiev then went toe-to-toe in the second, trading lots of punches to the delight of the crowds. The taller Usyk seemed to be connecting with the cleaner shots and he took the round by three points. The 25-year-old Ukrainian had done enough to claim a 17:13 victory.

21-year-old Argentinean sensation Yamil Peralta Jara got right into tough Tervel Pulev’s face in the first round, but the Bulgarian quickly countered and began exerting his authority with some good one-two combinations before looking to land with the big overhead. Peralta Jara’s fast start ensured the first was shared on points. The 28-year-old orthodox fighter from Bulgaria took the second with the clever use of his jab and then when attacked, countered with some hard straights. Pulev’s experience told in the final round as he closed out proceedings to win 13:10 and set up a semi-final showdown with Usyk.

Rising star Teymur Mammadov of Azerbaijan, who had underwhelmed in his first bout, was looking like his former self in the early stages of his bout with Belarusian orthodox fighter Siarhei Karneyeu, using that famed hook and jab in the early stages. With the 19-year-old Azeri now looking comfortable, he was showcasing his repertoire of shots, mixing it well with both the body shots and straight one-twos scoring heavily to take the first round. Karneyeu was fighting bravely against his taller and leaner-looking opponent and his endeavour saw him put him under a lot of pressure and he took the second in style. The third turned into exactly what the Belarusian wanted, a slug fest. Karneyeu pushed Mammadov all the way and when the score went to count back with the score tied at 19:19, it was the Azeri who was declared the winner.

2008 Beijing Olympic Games silver medallist Clemente Russo from Italy faced Cuba’s Jose Larduet Gomez in what promised to be an extremely tactical contest between two classic counter-punchers. The experienced Italian, who qualified by winning the World Series of Boxing first season Individual Championships, and his opponent’s style were just incompatible in the first and the points were shared. In the second, Russo’s big overhead caught the 22-year-old Cuban and he edged the round. It was far from pretty and the crowd were letting their feelings known but in typical Russo style, he took the victory 12:10 to move into the semi-finals where he will face Mammadov.

Tomorrow sees the women once more in action with the quarter-finals taking place in each of the three weight categories. There will also be the Men’s Light (60kg) and Middleweight (75kg) quarter-finals to look forward to.

Pritchard shines at the London ExCeL Arena

As women made their long awaited debut at the Olympic Games, three of the athletes competing on the ninth day of competition were involved in the AIBA Road to London program three-week training camp. Amongst those, Alexis Pritchard ensured her presence in the quarter-finals with a confidence boosting win.

Auckland-based Pritchard, who is trained by coach and husband Cameron Todd at the City Boxing Club, is one of the best women boxers to come from the Oceania region. With her ten years of experience now and the training she received in Cardiff as part of teh AIBA funded camp, she was primed to do well in the competition. He strength lies in her height and cool-head and she put those attributes to good use against Tunisia’s AIBA Women’s World Championships bronze medallist Rim Jouini in the first preliminary round in London. Pritchard went on to win 15:10 to set up a meeting with Russia’s two-time AIBA World Champion Sofya Ochigava.

New Zealand’s Arafura Games silver medallist Siona Fatima Fernandes, who competed at two AIBA Women’s World Championships, secured her place for the Olympics in May. She was also selected to take part in the AIBA Road to London Program but unfortunately came up against Bulgaria’s European Championships bronze medallist Stoyka Petrova who defeated her 23:11.

Kenya’s Elizabeth Andiego, a two-time National Champion, got international experience at the 2012 AIBA Women’s World Championships and then trained in the Welsh capital for three weeks with the Kiwi pair. She pushed Kazakhstan’s AIBA Women’s World Championships silver medallist and Asian Champion Marina Volnova all the way ExCel Arena but was unfortunately defeated. —- AIBA

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