Brits roll on, Indians cry foul in Olympic boxingBy Greg Beacham
LONDON – The British are on a roll. The Indians are angry. The Americans are barely alive.
Everybody seems to be in a fighting mood at the Olympic men’s boxing tournament — and every bout from now is for a medal.
ExCel arena is about to get taken over for the next few days by the first Olympic women’s tournament, which begins Sunday afternoon. But the men’s competition is starting to heat up after the round of 16 finished Saturday night by keeping the British team on track for a landmark home Olympics and giving the Indian team another reason to be furious.
Second-seeded light welterweight Tom Stalker beat India’s Manoj Kumar 20-16 for the 10th British win in 11 fights in London, moving six boxers to the brink of medal qualification.
Stalker, the British team captain, survived his Olympic debut with a narrow win in front of a screaming, singing crowd — and India is certain that fan support played a role in the result.
Although Stalker and Kumar appeared to be evenly matched, Kumar and his coaching staff criticized the judges and the tournament after the fifth loss for a seven-man team that arrived in London hoping to add to its single Olympic boxing medal.
“This is (like) a district tournament,” Kumar said through a translator. “It’s not an Olympic tournament. Cheating, cheating, cheating.”
The Indian team has suffered several tough defeats in London, most painfully in the decision to overturn welterweight Krishan Vikas’ apparent victory over Errol Spence, the only remaining member of the U.S. team, late Friday night for an accumulation of uncalled holding fouls.
Earlier, light heavyweight Sumit Sangwan lost a 15-14 decision to Brazil’s Yamaguchi Falcao.
“This competition is very poor,” Indian coach Blas Iglesias said after Kumar’s loss. “We’ve seen very many poor decisions. How do you fight against a man who doesn’t want to box? All the rounds were the same” on the scorecards.
Early in the day, veteran Indian coach Gurbankhsh Singh Sandhu said his team had to move past its bitterness over world boxing governing body AIBA’s decision on Vikas’ bout. Light flyweight Devendro Laishram certainly did, posting a sensational 16-11 upset of fourth-seeded Serdamba Purevdorj of Mongolia, the silver medalist in Beijing.
Yet Laishram and middleweight Vijender Singh, the superstar who won the nation’s first boxing medal in Beijing, are the only Indian boxers left in London.
“We are disappointed, but a rule is a rule,” Sandhu said. “I can’t fight rules. I’m here to train the boxers, and they are here to perform.”
Stalker made no apologies for his victory, saying he overcame a slight cold and a week of uneasy waiting for his first fight.
The Philippines appealed light flyweight Mark Barriga’s 17-16 loss to Kazakhstan’s Birzhan Zhakypov in Saturday’s second fight, but amateur boxing’s governing body declined to consider it because Filipino officials didn’t provide any grounds for their request.
At least two attempts at appeals have failed during the Olympics in a sport that frequently features close bouts between evenly matched opponents decided by its highly subjective scoring system.
Almost everybody who loses a close bout feels cheated, yet only some greet it with the class and sportsmanship shown by Sweden’s Anthony Yigit after a sensational 24-23 loss to second-seeded Ukrainian Denys Berinchyk.
“I can’t complain about the score,” Yigit said after trading three electric rounds with Berinchyk, a silver medalist at last year’s world championships. “It was a close fight. I think I landed a few more clean punches, but I can’t complain. I have a big heart.”
Light flyweight Zou Shiming of China opened defense of his Beijing gold medal with a 14-11 victory over Yosbany Veitia of Cuba, but the powerful Cuban team picked up two big victories as well. Cuba’s Roniel Iglesias upset top-seeded Brazilian light welterweight Everton Dos Santos, while top-seeded light heavyweight Julio La Cruz of Cuba overwhelmed Jordan’s Ihab Almatbouli.
Although Stalker survived, another world No. 1 went down in the evening session. Bulgaria’s unheralded Aleksandar Aleksandrov shocked South Korea’s Shin Jong-hun 15-14 with a third-round rally.
In a fight that might have matched the two best amateur light welterweights in the world, Iglesias got a decision over Dos Santos, who upset him for the world championship a year ago. Iglesias, the 2009 world champion, took a narrow lead out of the first two rounds with superior speed and precision before holding off Dos Santos, the latest top seed to fall.
Zou is a three-time world champion who became a national hero by winning China’s first boxing gold medal in its home Olympics four years ago, but his road to a repeat will probably be much tougher.