Bantamweight clinches Mauritius' first medal
BEIJING (AP) Bruno Julie has a burnt-orange mop of hair that sits atop his otherwise shaved head like a plate of spaghetti Bolognese. The bantamweight's frantic, overeager boxing technique suggests a man who's late for his dinner.
Mauritius, meet your nation's first Olympic medalist - and he's hungry for a gold.
Julie beat Venezuela's Hector Manzanilla in the boxing tournament quarterfinals Monday night to clinch the first medal in the Olympic history of his tiny island nation 560 miles off the eastern coast of Madagascar.
Ukrainian featherweight Vasyl Lomachenko also clinched a medal with his third virtuoso performance of the Olympics, silencing Workers' Gymnasium while pounding China's Li Yang in a 12-3 victory.
The crowd felt better when super heavyweight Zhang Zhilei knocked down Kazakhstan's Ruslan Myrsatayev twice in a 12-2 victory that assured China of at least two boxing medals in Beijing after winning just one in its previous history.
Julie's 13-9 win didn't possess the artistic value of Lomachenko's effort, but the African champion showed resilience in rallying from a third-round deficit. His coaches climbed the steps to the ring at the final buzzer, wildly waving their nation's four-color flag and putting it around Julie's shoulders.
"I'm a very experienced boxer, and I felt I should win," Julie said after posing for pictures with his jubilant entourage. "We said we're not here to win one or two bouts. We're here to earn a gold medal."
Godavarisingh Rajcoomar, the president of Mauritius' boxing association, said Julie will receive a 25,000-euro bonus from the government for the nation's first medal.
Moldova bantamweight Veaceslav Gojan also made some history, clinching his nation's second boxing medal with an upset victory over India's Akhil Kumar.
Cuba secured its fourth medal already with bantamweight Yankiel Leon's victory over Worapoj Petchkoom of Thailand, but Azerbaijan's Shahin Imranov upset young Cuban featherweight Idel Torriente, just the second of Cuba's 10 fighters to lose in Beijing.
Li finished third at last year's world championships, but he didn't stand a chance against the 20-year-old Ukrainian dynamo who's been the best boxer in Beijing. Even with more than 10,000 fans urging Li on, Lomachenko piled up a 5-0 lead in the first round with hands too quick to anticipate.
"I should practice more and get more experience," Li said. "I didn't perform well."
Lomachenko scored at will, then coasted through the fourth round in apparent deference to his host. After getting the tournament's single most difficult draw, Lomachenko has beaten world champion Albert Selimov, former Olympic medalist Bahodirjon Sultonov and the talented Li by a combined 39-11.
Lomachenko's semifinal opponent, Turkey's unheralded Yakup Kilic, hardly looked likely to give Lomachenko much trouble during his win over Algeria's Abdelkader Chadi.
Lomachenko's teammate, super heavyweight Vyacheslav Glazkov, will join him in the semifinals after a 10-4 win over Algeria's Newfel Ouatah.
The super heavyweight favorite is still defending world champion Roberto Cammarelle of Italy, who slogged through a 9-5 win over Colombia's Oscar Rivas to clinch his second Olympic medal.
But he'll next face David Price, who followed up his stunning stoppage of Russia's Islam Timurziev by clinching Britain's first medal of the games when Lithuania's Jaroslav Jaksto quit after the first round with a left leg injury. The British fan contingent, which included several of Price's Liverpool friends and family, held up an English flag with "D. Price Is Right" written on it.
"It inspired me and also put a little more pressure on me, because I didn't want them to come all this way and not qualify," Price said.
While Mauritius and Moldova won unlikely medals, India will have to wait for its first boxing medal. Kumar, the bantamweight who beat world champion Sergey Vodopyanov of Russia in his last bout, never managed to figure out Gojan's counterpunching style.
Two of Kumar's teammates - Vijender Kumar and Vitender Kumar - still have quarterfinal bouts upcoming.
Petchkoom, a silver medalist in Athens, is wildly popular in his native Thailand, where hundreds of people reportedly gather outside his home to watch his fights. He was decisively beaten by Leon, the smooth 26-year-old who might never have got to Beijing if two-time gold medalist Guillermo Rigondeaux hadn't been kicked off the Cuban team for trying to defect last year.