The Rio 2016 Boxing Tournament got underway on Saturday morning in Riocentro Pavilion 6, with the opening bouts at Light Flyweight (49kg), Lightweight (60kg), Light Heavyweight (81kg) and Heavyweight (91kg) setting the tone for a blistering competition over the coming 15 days.
A gripping opening to the competition saw Britain’s Galal Yafai, in-form going in to the Games, looking to get on the front foot against the winner of the African Continental Qualifier, Cameroon’s Simplice Fotsala. Fotsala responded well, landing strong uppercuts and combinations, but it was Yafai’s greater composure and dominance that impressed the judges, earning him a precious opening win and a second-round match-up against Cuba’s Johanys Argilagos.
Brazil’s Patrick Lourenço received a suitably warm welcome from the Rio crowd and looked to assert himself on Yurberjen Hern Martinez in an energetic start, but Colombia’s American Qualification Tournament winner was patient as he slowly unpicked Lourenço’s defences. A unanimous decision meant an early exit for Brazil’s first boxer of the Games, while Martinez will take great confidence into Monday’s second round match against Philippines’ Rogen Ladon.
The last Light Flyweight contest of the morning session saw Spain’s Samuel Carmona Heredia dominate his bout with the Armenian Artur Hovhannisyan, with a unanimous win that puts him into a second-round battle with Ireland’s three-time Olympian Patrick Barnes, bronze medallist in Beijing 2008 and London 2012.
The first Lightweight (60kg) bout of the day assumed historic significance, as Mexico’s Lindolfo Delgado faced-off against Italy’s experienced Carmine Tommasone, the first pro-boxer to take part in the Olympic Games as a result of the change to the AIBA statute on 1 June allowing non-AIBA athletes to compete. The Italian stalked his opponent around the ring, leaving Delgado little room to express himself, and Tommasone now meets the reigning World Champion, Cuba’s Lazaro Alvarez, in the second round.
Japan’s resilient, technically gifted Daisuke Narimatsu recovered well from Venezuelan Luis Cabrera’s early onslaught to earn a split decision and a match against USA’s Carlos Balderas. The American, ignited by a brilliant period of boxing from the middle of the second round against Kazakhstan’s Berik Abdrakhmanov, eventually won through in a memorable encounter.
A walkover saw Turkish Light Heavyweight (81kg) Mehmet Nadir Unal progress to a tough second-round tie against Cuban medal hope Julio Cesar La Cruz, before Croatia’s Hrvoje Sep edged a split decision against the Egyptian Abdelrahman Salah Orabi. By the time Brazil’s heavyweight (91kg) Juan Nogueira arrived in the ring to wrap up the first session of the Rio 2016 Boxing Competition, the packed Pavilion 6 arena was jumping. Several big Nogueira combinations closed out the session in electrifying fashion, seeing him safely through to face Russian Evgeny Tishchenko on Monday morning and raising the roof in the process.