Rio 2016 boxing programme ends on a golden high
The final night of boxing at Riocentro Pavilion 6 produced plenty of drama, emotion and top quality pugilism, as Uzbek boxers, Fazladdin Gaibnazarov and Shakhobidin Zoirov claimed two of the four golds on offer, winning in the men’s light welterweight and flyweight, while Tony Yoka of France took the super-heavyweight crown and Claressa Shields retained her women’s middleweight title.
Reigning world champion Tony Yoka of France beat Great Britain's Joe Joyce to win the men's super-heavyweight boxing title. In doing so he matched the achievements of his girlfriend Estelle Mossely, who won the women’s lightweight gold earlier in the week. Croatia's Filip Hrgovic and Kazakhstan's Ivan Dychko took the bronze medals as losing semi-finalists.
With Mossely cheering on her partner from the stand, Yoka boxed clever against a relentless opponent to win the battle of the big men on a 2-1 split decision and become the first Frenchman to win gold in the heaviest division.
Yoka, the world champion, had twisted his ankle during his semi-final bout and had to fight through the pain barrier against Joyce.
And he admitted that after Mossely had won her event, he felt an added pressure to succeed. “She just asked me to win because she did her job and she had her medal. Now it was my turn and I couldn't fail!”
Meanwhile, Mossely, was delighted for her partner: “I cried for him, he showed his qualities. We are both Olympic champions, you can't get any higher. Now we are going to party. We won't be sleeping for a long time!”
Shields retains middleweight title
The USA’s Claressa Shields defeated Nouchka Fontijn of the Netherlands to complete a successful defence of her women’s middleweight title and become the first American boxer in 112 years to win two Olympic gold medals.
Fontijn's silver was the first medal won by a Dutch boxer since heavyweight Arnold Vanderlyde and light-middleweight Orhan Delibas took bronze and silvers in 1992. Kazakhstan's Dariga Shakimova and China's Li Qian took the bronze medals as losing semi-finalists.
As a reminder of her status as reigning Olympic champion Shields brought her London 2012 gold medal to the ring with her. She left wearing two around her neck. “In London I knew I was going to win and I knew I was going to win here," said the super confident Shields, who has not lost a bout since 2012, and who was awarded unanimous point decision against Fontijn.
“I just wanted to win the first two rounds clear, that's all I wanted, when I came back to the corner they were saying you got that round, you got that round. I said I have to be smart,” she added. “I've worked so hard to be here. You know not everybody can be an Olympic gold medallist. I'm a two-time Olympic gold medallist!”
Zoirov edges to hard-fought men’s flyweight gold
Shakhobidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan won gold in the men's flyweight boxing with a unanimous points victory over twice world champion and 2012 bronze medallist Misha Aloyan of Russia. Venezuela's Joel Segundo Finol and China's Hu Jianguan won the bronze medals.
The Uzbek boxed survived an early scare in the first round when he sustained a cut to the head, but in the end edged a close-fought contest. Zoirov, who was hoisted into the air by his cornerman, was ecstatic to be topping the podium: “I had a dream, to win the Olympics. That was my goal and I was doing everything to reach that goal. Now I'm so happy and make my dream come true.”
He was quick to pay tribute to Aloyan who had pushed him all the way. “The fight was very even because my opponent was very strong. We went head to head together and it was the judge's decision to give the win to Uzbekistan. We appreciate how hard my opponent fought and have a lot of respect for him but we are happy with the decision.”
Gold for Gaibnazarov in the men’s light welterweight
Fazladdin Gaibnazarov doubled the joy for Uzbekistan, taking a surprise gold in the men’s light welterweight final, as he got the better of Azerbaijan’s Lorenzo Sotomayer Collazo with a 2-1 split decision. Russia's Vitaly Dunaytsev and Germany's Artem Harutyunyan won the bronze medals.
“I can't express in words how happy I am. I can't express the feelings - I think it is the happiest day of my life,” said Gaibnazarov. “I think that the fight went the way I planned it and I took my chances.”
"I feel a little bit sad,” admitted Sotomayer Collazo, who had beaten Gaibnazarov before and burst into tears on hearing the judges’ verdict. “I wanted the gold, I wanted to be champion, to be the king, however it wasn't possible. I made it to the final and it is the dream of every athlete to come and try and fight for the championship.”
It was the third gold for Uzbekistan’s boxers in Rio, making it their most successful Games ever.