Galal Yafai wins after a mini-epic with Saken Bibossinov up to the Olympic final, while the Irish Kellie Harrington also moves into the lightweight gold medal match
IN a mini epic with three rounds in the GB flyweight Galal Yafai fought for a place in the final of the Olympic Games in the semifinals at the Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo.
He tore in Kazakhstan Saken Bibossinov from the opening bell. Bibossinov is a southpaw like Yafai and likes to work with long shots from a distance. But the Briton cut off his room and pounded his body and head with blows. Galal worked his right hand well, tying himself to it as a hook, and using that line to pull off a hefty uppercut. He punched in his left flank and gave Bibossinov a standing count. It was the perfect start for Yafai.
After exerting himself, Yafai got on his back foot on the second round. That allowed Bibossinov to throw more punches. Yafai swayed under it. He let through quite a bit, but still had a good lap. However, it wasn’t good enough for three of the adjudicators who favored the Kazakhs. That brought Bibossinov back into the race. Yafai took that final round, with a place in the gold medal match on the line. He went back on his forefoot, hit Bibossinov head-on, and fought his way forward. He still fired more shots, but threw back more himself and fought his way through the circle. Galal tried valiantly to claim a split decision victory.
“Imagine you are an Olympic champion,” said Yafai. “It’s something I’ve dreamed of but never saw it happen. To be in an Olympic final, I would never have thought that possible. Now I’m in, it just shows that if you do the hard work, you will reap the rewards. “
“I surprised myself, he’s a world bronze medalist. A top fighter. When they counted him out, I thought, ‘Gosh, what’s going on here?’ “He added. “He wasn’t as tough as I thought, I thought he would be so, so good. When they gave him the count, I thought, ‘Gosh, it’s going to be easier than I thought.’
“But I have to congratulate him, he got back in there and gave me a very tough fight. I thought I had won convincingly enough, even though it was very close on the scorecard. “
In the other semi-final of the Philippine flyweight, Carlo Paalam, who had a great winning streak in this tournament, unanimously overtook the Japanese Ryomei Tanaka, the brother of Kosei Tanaka, a three-weight belt carrier in professional boxing. Yafai and Paalam will meet in the 52kg final on Saturday (August 7th) at 6:00 a.m. UK time.
Kellie Harrington had to be smart, sharp and quick to beat Thailand’s Sudaporn Seesondee in the lightweight semi-finals. That is exactly what the Irish woman did. They were cautious, with Sessondee’s southpaw, she was unerring and was always a threat. But Harrington alternated so well between orthodox and southpaw stances, whipping in their own shots without hurrying. She boxed well to make tight rounds against an effective southpaw. Harrington won a decision that was shared but deserved.
“Words are a bit lacking for me. I’m speechless, ”said Harrington after the win. “Today was a game of chess. It’s very, very tricky.
“She shot gunshots in the body, but they literally stripped my shirt off so they didn’t count for me. A judge will only rate a good shot and I felt my shots were cleaner.
“I felt like I won every round, nowhere near, but you have to do what you have to do and I won every round by winning every round.”
The Brazilian Beatriz Ferreira, strong, aggressive and a completely different style than the Thai, will box Harrington in the Olympic final. This will take place on Sunday morning (August 8th) at 6:00 a.m. UK time.
America’s Duke Ragan made occasional country quality shots in the 57kg Olympic final. But Russia’s Albert Batyrgaziev was undeniable. The southpaw thrust forward, hit the body with the left and stabbed the head with the right. The decisive factor was the determination of the Russian. He kept his pace at work and that, even if it wasn’t spectacular, still set him apart. Batyrgaziez, landing more and more shots, hit in hard doubles that tore Ragan’s head back, giving the Russian a split decision.
“This has been my dream since I started boxing training as a kid,” said Batyrgaziev. “It has paid off all the hard work and effort and discipline I’ve shown since then. It was worth it.
“I am proud of my home. It deserves to be the home of an Olympic champion and I will bring the gold medal home to my people as promised. “