Oleksandr Khyzhniak has not lost since he failed to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
The winning streak of 61 fights and a shot at gold would have vanished almost instantly, but the Ukraine middleweight rep dug deep to beat the Philippines’ Eumir Marcial in an all-out blow. Khyzhniak won on three (30-27, 29-28, 29-28) of the five judges to position Ukraine for a shot at the first middleweight gold medal.
Marcial takes home a bronze medal after hearing the scorecards for the first time in Tokyo. The Filipino southpaw entered the bout after scooping first-round wins in each of his two Olympic bouts in the first round. There was little chance of repeating this feat on Thursday, though Marcial fought well enough to take the lead on three of the five cards after one.
During the round, Marcial also suffered a cut high on the top of his scalp, with blood flowing into his left eye during the one-minute rest period. It never became a factor, although Khyzhniak’s aggression and open style got a bit too much to deal with. The Ukrainian middleweight was effective with his right hand and left hook, although Marcial managed to catch him with an uppercut.
Marcial was in the lead with two cards and Khyzhniak one with two judges, who even judged the fight before the final round. Marcial just had to win on the card of one of the two judges who had it to make a split decision and fight for gold.
It did not happen.
Khyzhniak increased the pressure in the third and final lap. Marcial was more than a game for it, but it just wasn’t effective enough to get the scorecards to work their way through.
Marcial dedicated the tournament to his late brother Eliver, who died last October at the age of 39 – just two months before the Filipino individual fight that took place last December. Marcial will return to the pros and under the guidance of Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach and legendary compatriot Manny Pacquiao, whose MP Promotions is serving as his promoter.
Khyzhniak will face Brazilian Hebert Conceicao Sousa for gold on Saturday, August 7th. Sousa moves on after a split decision win against Gleb Bakshi (ROC).
Marcial and Bakshi take home bronze for their respective nations.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox