Wednesday, 22 August 2012

London 2012 Olympics - Boxing


8th August 2012

Men’s Boxing Quarter-finals

This was the last of my London2012 sessions.  My attempt to squish a whole Olympic Games (plus a bit of sightseeing) into two-and-a-bit days had finally begun to take its toll, and I was feeling not only very tired and a touch sport-saturated, but was also sporting a whopping blister on my right foot.

However, I was quite pleased that my final session would be boxing at the Excel Arena, as this place had certainly appeared to be bouncing each time I had viewed earlier sessions on TV, so hoped my lethargy may be swept away on a tide of collective enthusiasm.  And I was not disappointed.

This particular session comprised the quarter-final stages of three of the weight classes – twelve bouts in total, although I would only hang around for eight.

First up were the Light Flyweights: little chaps whom I felt I could probably just about managed to take at a push.  That the Excel Arena appeared to be housing as many Irish as Brits told me there must be a boxer from across the Irish Sea fighting this evening.  

And so it proved; one Paddy (inevitably) Barnes delighting his supporters by giving his Indian opponent a fair old thumping.  All of the other quarter-final ties at this weight were equally one-sided, and even a novice like me found myself able to pick out the winner long before the final bell had tolled.

London 2012 Boxing at The Excel Arena

Paddy Barnes v Devondro Laishram - London 2012

Paddy Barnes v Devondro Laishram - London 2012 

Paddy Barnes v Devondro Laishram - London 2012 

London 2012 Boxing at The Excel Arena

When the first pair of Light Welterweights pranced into the arena, one could immediately see the difference in size – these lads clearly looked as if they could seriously damage pretty much anyone who irked them.  The first bout took place between a Cuban, Stolongo Iglesias and an Uzbek, Uktamjon Rahmonov, with the clash of cultures and styles played out not only in the ring but also ringside. 

For as soon as the bout commenced, there arose from the Accredited Zone an incessant shrill scattergun stream of encouragement of a pitch which appeared effortlessly to penetrate the general hubbub.  

Soon a number of amused heads were turning in its general direction, and I eventually identified the source: a tiny mite of a woman of strangely indeterminate age.  She could easily have been the fighter’s daughter, wife or mother.  Her sole competition appeared to come from somewhere behind me, as her chatter was occasionally answered by a deep booming fog-horn of a voice, almost mournfully calling out “Ooze-Becky-Staaan!! 

The Uzbek shaded the first round before, in round 2, the Cuban (either intimidated or inspired by his compatriot’s urgings) simply came out and gave his opponent a severe panelling (as we say up here).  I later noted this fighter went on to claim the gold medal – a fact which surprised me not a jot.

Briton Tom Stalker fought in the third quarter-final against a Mongolian whose name I am not even going to attempt to spell.  I didn’t think Mongolia had much of a history as a boxing nation, but I was surprised at how many friends he appeared to have brought along with him.  

And very vocal ones they were too, maintaining an odd unintelligible chant throughout proceedings.  The Excel crowd attempted on a couple of occasions to quell these interlopers with a rousing “Team GB, Team GB”, but each time this died down, there remained the little pocket of vociferous Mongolians refusing to shut up.

This was the first fight of the evening where it was impossible for me to identify a clearly superior fighter.  The Mongolian had enjoyed the upper hand early on, but Stalker hadn’t half hit him with some telling blows in the final round, and I thought the Brit had maybe done just enough.  But there were loud groans of disappointment around the arena as the Mongolian boxer was given the verdict by a single point.  Stalker stalked off with a face like fizz to lodge an appeal against the decision, which came to naught.

The atmosphere in the arena was, inevitably, a touch flat after that decision and the fourth quarter-final was fought out in front of a generally subdued crowd.  But I had already made the decision to leave before the next selection of quarter-finals commenced, fatigue finally having caught up with me.

Tom Stalker v Munkh-Erdene Uranchimeg - London 2012

Tom Stalker v Munkh-Erdene Uranchimeg - London 2012  

The moment Tom Stalker's Olympics were over.

Tom Stalker leaves the Excel Arena following his quarter-final defeat.

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