Enkhbat wins first Mongolian boxing gold
BEIJING (AP) Mongolia came to Beijing with no gold medals in a less-than-ilustrious Olympic career.
Then Tuvshinbayar Naidan won the first in judo last week. On Sunday, bantamweight boxer Badar-Uugan Enkhbat beat Cuba's Yankiel Leon 16-5 for the second.
With hundreds of his countrymen chanting "MON-GO-LI-A," and cheering his every punch, Enkhbat dominated the fight. At the end, he immediately saluted the section of fans lending him support, then got down on his knees in prayer.
"I think now, in my heart, of the people who are close to me and especially the fans who came to China to cheer for me at the Olympics," Enkhbat said. "Those things gave me the power to get the gold medal.
"This gold medal means a lot to my nation and to my people. This gold medal belongs to all of them."
Enkhbat surged to an early lead and easily held off Leon, the third Cuban to lose a gold-medal bout in less than 24 hours. Another Cuban would lose later Sunday, meaning the island nation would leave with no gold medals.
Enkhbat, the world championship runner-up in 2007, showed a strong right hand and lots of smarts in getting Leon off-balance throughout the four rounds. It was a huge improvement over his performance in the finals at worlds in Chicago a year ago.
"In the 2007 world championships, it was my first big tournament in my life. In the gold medal match, I was nervous and I didn't perform to my best," he said.
"The veteran boxers on the team suggested I have to fight freely and with self-confidence. From the first round of the games, I did, getting lots of points from the early fights right until the end."
The 23-year-old Enkhbat plans to remain in the amateur ranks to gain more experience and possibly defend his title in London in 2012. He also knows that few Mongolians ever make it big in the pros.
"There are so many other huge competitions awaiting me," he said. "I want to participate in them and get my name known to the world."
Enkhbat had Mongolian company as a medal winner in boxing: Serdamba Purevdorj took silver in the light flyweight division.
Purevdorj had to quit his title bout with China's Zou Shiming in the second round because of a shoulder injury. He trailed just 1-0 when his corner threw in the towel - literally.
"In the second round, we hit each other, and after that I couldn't raise my hands," Purevdorj said. "I hurt the shoulder in Kazakstan in March during the qualifications. Then I hurt it again against the Cuban (Yampier Hernandez) in the semifinal match.
"I was aware of the pain when I entered the ring."