Mourad Aliev expected to avert the challenge from Briton Frazer Clarke to advance to the medal round.
Instead, the French super heavyweight Michael Conlan gave a fight for his money with the most dramatic in-ring protest against participating in the Olympics.
Frenchman Aliev broke out of his super heavyweight quarterfinal bout with Clarke in the moments before and immediately after his disqualification. A point deduction caused Aliev to take out referee Andrew Mustacchio and then spit out and kick his mouthguard, resulting in a disqualification win for Clarke.
The fight was fought at an aggressive, if not sordid, pace from the opening bell. Aliev was the last fighter left for France at the Tokyo Olympics.
Clarke had to deal with cuts over the eyes on lap two, with the action getting ugly inside. Aliev beat up the Briton and hit him wherever there was an opening until the time was called. Time was called when the two were handcuffed just so Aliev could keep throwing – including two shots that hit Clarke behind the head.
Still, Mustacchio signaled a headbutt that made Aliev explode. He started charging around the ring, yelling at the referee in disgust at the verdict, and then spat out his mouthpiece to kick it out of the ring. He swung and missed but managed to slide a camera trying to zoom in on the final verdict in the ring that Clarke celebrated as the winner.
The decision was immediately challenged by the French coaching staff, with the matter still under review at the time of publication.
At the moment, Clarke is at least a bronze medalist. Aside from a reversal of the official verdict on a losing win for Aliev, one win will be removed from delivering the first super heavyweight gold medal for Great Britain since Anthony Joshua in London 2012.
Uzbekistan Bakhodir Jalolov will face Clarke in the semi-finals on August 4th.
The scores were 30-27 on all five scorecards in favor of Jalolov, who was doing his best to stay calm in an ugly fight. Kumar has been able to avoid being disciplined for an absurdly high number of legal rabbit strikes in an amateur match – an environment in which referees are usually overprotective.
Nonetheless, Jalolov, who stands 8-0 (8KOs), improved his performance from 2016 when he was eliminated in the quarter-finals. The 6’7-inch southpaw is now at least bronze and one win away from fighting for gold.
Two more super heavyweight fights are scheduled for Sunday evening: Richard Torrez Jr. vs. Dainier Pero (Cuba); and Ivan Veriasov (ROC) against Kamshaybek Kunkabayev (Kazakhstan).
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox