World champ Korobov joins Russia's boxing shame
BEIJING (AP) Zou Shiming entered the ring with a cocky sidestep shuffle, blowing kisses to his roaring fans even before throwing a punch. The king of the Beijing ring clearly enjoys his Olympic reign.
A few perilous minutes later, China's favorite fighter left that ring humbled and shaking, but still alive in his bid to win the nation a first boxing gold medal.
With world champions already falling like golden dominoes in the Olympic tournament, two more had dangerous bouts Saturday - and Matvey Korobov wasn't as fortunate as the hometown favorite.
Bakhtiyar Artayev of Kazakhstan pulled the biggest upset yet in a tournament full of topsy-turvy results, rallying from a final-round deficit for a 10-7 win over Korobov, the Russian middleweight champ.
Two more Americans also got booted from the tournament, leaving just two representatives of the nation that dominated Olympic boxing a very long time ago. Cuba has been the sport's pre-eminent power for the last two decades, and its young team is still rolling with nine boxers in Beijing after three more reached the quarterfinals.
While Cuba remained steadily sensational, Zou showed a flair for dramatic escapes.
With the crowd behind him at Workers' Gymnasium, Zou's bout with France's Nordine Oubaali ended in a 3-all tie only after Zou staggered Oubaali on a scoring right hand with 15 seconds left. The tiebreaking punch stats favored Zou, who hid his eyes in his tank top before the referee raised his hand as the winner.
"When the score is close, the pressure is big," Zou said. "I knew the situation would be tough. My coach told me that I should pay more attention to him, even if I had beaten him before."
Oubaali didn't allow Zou to do much showboating during the bout, keeping the jab-happy Chinese star at bay with quick footwork and his own persistent jab. Neither fighter scored in the second round, and Oubaali got the only point in the third to take a 2-1 lead.
"He did exactly what he had to," French coach Dominique Nato said of Oubaali, who was disconsolate. "We had the right tactics. It nearly paid off, but when you're facing a world champion and 10,000 fans, it's not easy. I'm proud of him. He's extremely disappointed, but we're not disappointed. It was a fair result."
The morning session was highlighted by Artayev, who won a gold medal at welterweight in the Athens Games but had spent the last two years looking up at Korobov. The Russian with family in Florida was widely expected to cement his position as the world's most talented amateur boxer in Beijing before embarking on a pro career.
Artayev trailed 7-6 entering the final round of a fairly even bout, but fought the final two minutes with an urgency Korobov couldn't match. Artayev was repeatedly quicker in exchanges, and even Korobov didn't show any public displeasure with the result, as so many of his teammates have done during Russia's embarrassing showing in Beijing.
After Korobov predicted five medals for his team, just four Russian boxers are left in the tournament, including flyweight Georgy Balakshin after his victory Saturday.
Several middleweights showed rust after a week off between their first preliminary bouts and Saturday's fights for quarterfinal places, but Britain's James Degale wasn't among them. The hard-punching Brit known as Chunky beat American Shawn Estrada 11-5.
Estrada, the most unlikely member of the U.S. team after an upset-filled run through the Olympic trials, wasn't sharp enough to land accurate scoring punches against Degale's bull-rushes.
American light flyweight Luis Yanez, who was temporarily kicked off the team last month, was dismissed from the evening session with an 8-7 loss to Serdamba Purevdorj.
Yanez trailed 5-2 early in the third before several flurries gave him four points in about 15 seconds - a rare achievement in amateur boxing, particularly in these low-scoring Olympics. But he fought with a curious game plan, refusing to engage his Mongolian opponent regularly until falling behind in the fourth round.
"Wherever he got that game plan, he didn't get it from us," said U.S. coach Dan Campbell, who has been frustrated by his fighters' reliance on their hometown coaches, even getting pre-fight instructions in overseas cell phone calls.
Jitender Kumar added another victory to India's surprising showing with a 13-6 win over Olympic veteran Tulashboy Doniyorov of Uzbekistan, and unrelated teammate Vijender Kumar won the evening's final bout 13-3 over Thailand's Angkhan Chomphuphuang.
"All credit goes to Akhil (Kumar)," Jitender Kumar said, referring to another unrelated teammate who beat Russian world champion Sergey Vodopyanov on Friday. "When I win the medal, it will be for Akhil."