BEIJING (AP) Every time a Russian boxer falls in these Olympics, a Chinese fighter rises. At this rate, the home team will soon be towering above amateur boxing's most fearsome squad.
Chinese light heavyweight Zhang Xiaoping upset Artur Beterbiev 8-2 on Thursday at Workers' Gymnasium, getting a few curious points from the judges but still controlling his preliminary-round fight with the latest Russian disappointment.
Chinese welterweight Hanati Silamu also beat overmatched Joseph Mulema of Cameroon 9-4 to advance within one victory of a medal.
China, which has never won a gold medal in a sport long banned by Mao, has seven boxers left in the tournament. Incredibly, that's the same number as Russia, the longtime amateur factory that won three titles and eight medals at last year's world championships.
The tournament has been hit by amateur boxing's customary litany of complaints about the judging, with most of the gripes coming from the opponents of Chinese fighters. But Beterbiev, who finished second in last year's championships, didn't score after the first round and seemed to have no strategy to beat his tall, long-armed opponent.
Zhang turned the fight into a hug-a-thon at times, but scored enough on the outside to win.
"I had the psychological advantage, because my opponent is stronger than me, so I have no pressure," Zhang said. "Secondly, my strategy is quite good. I took advantage of my height and kept distance from my opponent."
Beterbiev was the third Russian to get knocked out of the tournament in 20 hours, and welterweight Andrey Balanov faces another daunting test in the evening session when he takes on U.S. world champion Demetrius Andrade.
While Russia struggles, fellow power Cuba keeps chugging along with a young team gaining valuable experience. Welterweight Carlos Banteaux advanced with a 13-6 victory over Britain's Billy Joe Saunders.
Banteaux, who lost to Saunders earlier in the year, fought with precise strategy in the rematch, counter-punching and picking away at his eager teenage opponent. British coach Terry Edwards got frustrated with the scoring in the third round, but the scores reflected Banteaux's complete grasp of amateur boxing's idiosyncratic scoring for punches from multiple angles.
"I thought the scoring was a little bit inconsistent, especially in the third round," British coach Terry Edwards said. "It's not sour grapes. I think Billy did lose the bout, but what better place for him to get experience for (the London Games in) 2012."
Saunders' teammate, light heavyweight Tony Jeffries, opened his Olympics with a victory over Colombia's Eleider Alvarez in a fight that ended in a 5-all tie. Amateur boxing matches are then decided by the highest average of total punches landed, as scored by three of the five judges at ringside.
"It was a relief (because) it's been a long week and there's a lot of pressure on us," said Jeffries, who had a first-round bye. "The team's been so successful that it puts pressure on you to come through."
Unheralded Egyptian welterweight Hosam Abdin got the session off to a remarkable start with an 11-10 victory over Thailand's Non Boonjumnong, who finished second at last year's worlds. Abdin hung on in the final two rounds even after his coach was kicked out of his corner for being too vocal.
Boonjumnong's brother, Manus, will open the defense of his light welterweight gold medal in Athens in the evening session.
Croatian light heavyweight Marijo Sivolija-Jelica was trounced 8-1 by Tajikistan's Dzhakhon Kurbanov in Sivolija-Jelica's first bout since his opening-round opponent, Tonga's Farani Tavui, was taken from the ring on a stretcher after losing his equilibrium and collapsing.