BEIJING (AP) Zou Shiming began his quest for China's first boxing gold medal in style Wednesday with an 11-2 victory over Eduard Bermudez of Venezuela in the light flyweight division as the Olympics' biggest and smallest boxers began wrapping up the tournament's preliminary bouts.
Deontay Wilder stopped the U.S. team's freefall with a brutal come-from-behind victory over Algeria's Abdelaziz Touilbini, while Osmai Acosta shut out his Nigerian opponent to open his chase for Cuba's fifth consecutive Olympic heavyweight title.
Zou became a national hero for winning China's first boxing medal with a bronze in Athens, and he followed it up with world championships in 2005 and 2007. Though the martial-arts-trained Zou often struggles to make his 48-kilogram weight limit, he doesn't seem to lose much power.
Zou entered Workers' Gymnasium with both arms stretched high, pumping his gloves with frenetic vigor to a huge ovation from the two-thirds-full arena. When Bermudez followed him, a few boos could be heard for nearly the first time in the tournament's five days.
Zou is an exceptionally athletic fighter with a good-looking jab, which he used to dominate the bout. With a 7-0 lead early in the third round, Zou began to toy with Bermudez, dropping his hands and tempting the Venezuelan to try anything he pleased.
"It was just normal, and relatively easy," Zou said. "I was a little nervous before the fight, but when I got into the ring, I heard all the fans cheering for me, and then I forgot about the pressure. I really love this feeling. I felt like a man in the ring."
Zou will next face Winston Montero of the Dominican Republic, who brazenly guaranteed victory over Zou after winning his opening bout. Montero also followed teammate Juan Carlos Payano's lead by wearing a Chinese flag on his back into the ring.
Chinese heavyweight Nijiati Yushan didn't fare as well as Zou, getting battered in a 23-4 loss to Ukraine's Oleskandr Usyk. A day earlier, Ukraine filed an unsuccessful protest with the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) over the scoring in its lightweight's loss to China's Hu Qing.
But judging controversy aside, the Chinese already have sent six fighters through to the next round, a remarkable achievement for a country where Mao Zedong long banned the sport. Super heavyweight Zhang Zhilei will fight in the evening session.
One day after flyweight medal favorite Rau'shee Warren's upset loss staggered the U.S. team, Wilder righted it again with a 10-4 victory. Though Wilder took Warren's loss harder than anybody, he put on a fearsome display of the punching power that's turned him into an Olympian just 2 1/2 years after taking up the sport.
Wilder, a former college basketball player whose 3-year-old daughter has a spinal birth defect, didn't score until late in the second round, staying outside and defensive.
"The whole strategy was to come out and basically scam this guy," Wilder said. "To figure out how he moves, what his speed was like, that sort of thing. In the third, we use the term, 'Bring the dog out.' ... They released the leash out on me."
Indeed, Wilder has a bite. He scored two quick points and shrugged off a two-point penalty for holding before staggering Touilbini back into the ropes with a vicious left hand that tied the score shortly before the end of the third.
Wilder dominated the fourth round, outscoring Touilbini 6-0 and chasing the Algerian around the ring.
"We wanted him to take his time with the guy," U.S. coach Dan Campbell said. "We know the type of power that (Wilder) has, and we know that he can wear guys down."
Thanks to the smaller field in the heaviest two weight classes, Wilder will be in the medal round if he beats Mohammed Arjaoui of Morocco, who knocked off Brad Pitt - no, not that one - of Australia. Russia's Rakhim Chakhkiev and Italian medal favorite Clemente Russo also advanced.