Oleksandr Usyk repeatedly crouched and leaped, his single lock of long hair doing its own dance atop his shaved head. The Ukrainian heavyweight then even did the splits in mid-air before landing on his knees with a triumphant thud. He’s a 1.90m bruiser with nimble feet. He’s also an Olympic champion.
Usyk closed the show with panache on Saturday night on the first day of gold-medal bouts at the Olympic boxing tournament, beating Italy’s Clemente Russo 14-11 before breaking out his dance moves.
Usyk said it was “a dance of the Cossacks, who defended us back in the day, and they were not afraid of anything.”
Britain’s Luke Campbell also appeared fearless in his bantamweight bout with rival John Joe Nevin of Ireland. They scrapped through two-and-a-half remarkably even rounds, their fans getting more uneasy with every blow, until Campbell knocked down Nevin with one spectacular punch.
The British bantamweight fought back tears in the ring after the final verdict made him an Olympic champion. Campbell beat his rival 14-11 on Saturday night, securing Britain’s first gold in his weight division since 1908.
“I won. Can’t believe it,” Campbell said. “That’s what was going through my mind. It’s a day I’ve dreamed of for a long, long time.”
Campbell’s solemn, teary rendition of God Save the Queen in front of his adoring fans had little in common with the other four gold-medal celebrations at ExCel arena.
When light flyweight Zou -Shiming of China defended his Beijing gold medal with a 13-10 win over Kaeo Pongprayoon, his Thai opponent collapsed on the canvas in fury and pain, eventually leaving the ring in tears.
“I feel that I won, and I could see that the crowd thought I won,” Pongprayoon said. “I don’t know why I lost. I think the points system at the Olympics is wrong or strange.”
Just another typical day at an Olympic boxing tournament — and there were still five more gold-medal bouts to be held yesterday.
Light welterweight Roniel Iglesias beat Ukraine’s Denys Berinchyk 22-15 for Cuba’s first boxing gold in London after failing to win any in Beijing. Middleweight Ryota Murata then narrowly won the second boxing gold medal in Japan’s Olympic history, beating Brazil’s Esquiva Falcao 14-13 on the strength of a two-point holding penalty against Falcao in the final round.
However, most of the crowd came to cheer Campbell, the 24-year-old father who locked up Britain’s second gold medal at its home Olympics following Nicola Adams’ flyweight victory in the women’s tournament.
Campbell also won the rubber match in his friendly rivalry with Nevin, who beat him soundly in the 2009 world championships before losing to Campbell on a tiebreaker last year.
Their Olympic bout was still in doubt when Campbell connected with a punch that will loom large in Britain’s boxing history. Campbell had few thoughts as he waited for the eight-count on Nevin.
“After that, I just had to carry on what I was doing and not be silly,” Campbell said.
Nevin, a two-time Olympian, was stone-faced after the decision, but embraced his rival.
“I would have given my right arm [even] for a bronze medal before the games, so this is a dream come true for me,” Nevin said. “My mother has decided the medal is going to go in her cupboard.”
Ireland is leaving London with four boxing medals, including Katie Taylor’s gold.