Britain’s Anthony Joshua brought the house down with a huge final round to take the super-heavyweight title and end the absorbing boxing action in fine style after classy fighters from Cuba and Ukraine delivered more gold.
With Cuban teenager Robeisy Ramirez Carrazana impressing on his way to the flyweight title and Ukraine’s Vasyl Lomachenko strolling to the lightweight gold, it was over to the big men of the boxing ring for the final act of the tournament.
Poor defense left the Briton three points behind after two rounds of his bout with Italian policeman Roberto Cammarelle, but Joshua finally delivered some thumping shots of his own to bring the passionate crowd to their feet as the noise hit fever pitch.
After a pause, the judges gave the Briton the victory on a countback, much to the displeasure of the Italians, who protested the result to governing body AIBA, leaving the crowd waiting nervously for 10 minutes before Joshua was confirmed the winner.
“I gave it my all in the third round, I never panicked and I will keep on pushing until that last bell,” Joshua told reporters. “My legs and everything were killing me, sometimes I wanted to stop, but my mind was working and my arms were just flying around.”
Joshua was joined for photos by former professional heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis and Britain’s last super-heavyweight champion Audley Harrison, who has endured a tough career since leaving the amateur ranks.
The temptation of professional cash was of no interest to the towering 22-year-old from London.
“To leave something as great as the GB setup just because of money would be a big mistake. I don’t want to lose that, just because of a bit of money thrown in my face,” said Joshua, who only took up boxing after the Beijing Games four years ago.
Joshua’s jubilation at claiming the 13th gold in the boxing ring at the London Games was a memorable moment, but it did not match the performances of the three women champions, which were still drawing praise from AIBA president Wu Ching-kuo.
“The women’s boxers have shown their best performances, highly skilled, concentration and shown sincerity,” Wu told reporters before the last of the men’s finals.
Attempting to match the women’s crowd-pleasing style was classy Cuban Carrazana, who won the flyweight gold with another mature and impressive performance that belied his 18 years.
Carrazana soaked up the punishment from Mongolian challenger Tugstsogt Nyambayar, before firing off uppercuts and hooks from all angles as his opponent struggled to match his speed.
The gold medal was Cuba’s second of the Games and it helped repair some of the damage to the reputation of the great boxing nation after they returned from Beijing four years ago without a title for the first time in two decades.
However, Cuba, who have won 34 golds in the Olympic ring, were disappointed with their tally in London.
“I am not completely happy because we had two world champions who did not get a medal,” coach Rolando Acebal said. “We’ve lost a lot of time looking for a good selection of athletes. Boxing nowadays is very different from how it used to be, so we had to fight hard to get people into the Olympics.”
Ukraine do not seem to have that problem as they claimed five boxing medals in London, although the old guard remain the country’s prized assets.