TELEVISION crew, coaches and officials outnumbered the crowd when the boxing got underway in the cavernous Hall Four of the NEC on Friday at midday.
Best-supported boxers in action during the opening session were English middleweights Lewis Richardson and Kerry Davis – and a light-welterweight from Lesotho! On Wikipedia, Lesotho is described as “a landlocked country enclaved by South Africa” and some of their two million residents found their way to Birmingham to cheer on Qhobosheane Mohlerepe.
They saw him have his hands full with Cyprus prodigy Odyesseas Atmatzidis in the opening round and then got behind him in the last two as he found the answers to win unanimously.
The first English boxer in action was female middleweight Davis. She edged out Ghanaian veteran Ornella Sathoud after losing the opening round on three of the five scorecards. Davis won the second round clearly with her long, straight punches when some of the steam left Sathoud’s attacks. Sathoud dragged more out of herself in the last, but Davis had more in the tank and outpunched her to win 4-0 on the cards.
Richardson, meanwhile, unanimously outpointed Haaris Khan (Wales) in a meeting of tall technicians at 75kgs. The southpaw from Colchester had Khan on his knees in the first after shipping his feet smartly to walk him onto a southpaw right hook. That left Khan chasing the fight and he was docked a point in the second before rallying in the last.
There was some quality action at 63.5kgs, with Namibia’s long Jonas Jonas, gold medallist four years ago on the Gold Coast four years ago, getting the boxing underway. Colan Caleb (Nautu) oozed all the confidence of a gulity schoolboy outside the headmaster’s office ahead of the opening bell and his doubts were justified. Jonas set about him and Caleb barely landed a punch before being stopped in the first.
Equally emphatic was the second bout, Scotland’s Reese Lynch handing outclassed Timon Aaree (Kirabati) two counts for a first-round stoppage.
Best bout of the opening session was between lofty Ugandan left-hander Joshua Tukamuhebwa and John Paul Hale (Northern Ireland). Hale did enough work on the inside in the opening two minutes to win the first on four of the five cards before Tukamuhebwa came blazing back with combinations in the second to leave the bout in the balance going into the last round.
The referee denied Tukamuhebwa a knockdown after Hale hit the canvas, but the rest of the round was fought at the Ugandan’s pace and range and he won a 3-2 split.
That set up a last-16 clash with the fighter who threw the best punch of the opening session, Australian light-welter Billy Polkinghorn. His right hand found the chin of Fabio Roselie (Seychelles) and took everything out of him. The ‘eight’ count wasn’t long enough for Roselie to recover and it was waved off.