It was an eventful Sunday for Team GB’s boxing team in Tokyo. All three of its participants advanced to further medal rounds at the Olympics but in wildly different circumstances.
The highlight was undoubtedly light-heavyweight Ben Whittaker’s upset win over feared Russian Imam Khataev in their semi-final. With comparisons to pro monster Artur Beterbiev after two stoppage wins, Khataev was expected to reach the Olympic final but he was instead derailed by an inspired display by the West Midlands man.
Whittaker won by a 4-1 split decision, utilising his height and reach advantages to great effect and keeping the Russian at arm’s length behind a smooth jab. The aggressive Khataev remained a constant danger with his stiff blows and bodywork, but Whittaker’s greater craft and clever movement prevailed.
He will now battle for a gold medal on Wednesday against Cuba’s Rio 2016 middleweight gold medallist Arlen Lopez.
Earlier, welterweight star Pat McCormack progressed to the Olympic final by virtue of a walkover after Ireland’s Aidan Walsh failed to recover from an ankle injury. Now guaranteed at least a silver medal, the Washington man meets Cuban Roniel Iglesias in Tuesday’s final.
Frazer Clarke continued Team GB’s Olympic medal run at super-heavyweight but not in the manner expected.
Clarke won a contentious second-round disqualification over Frenchman Mourad Aliev who was thrown out for his persistent headwork and subsequent histrionics. Aliev was furious at the call by referee Andrew Mustacchio and afterwards sat on the ring apron for over 20 minutes in protest.
After narrowly losing the first round and digging in during the second, the Brit was cut over both eyes in a rough and ready encounter. After Mustacchio deducted a point for a headbutt, the emotional Aliev screamed at the official and stormed around the ring like an inconsolable toddler. He spat out his mouthpiece and attempted to kick it into the crowd as Clarke’s injuries were inspected. The Brit was duly declared the winner by disqualification though the French Olympic team immediately appealed the decision.
Team GB currently has a minimum of five medals with Whittaker and McCormack guaranteed at least silver, Clarke and middleweight Lauren Price in the semi-finals and earning a minimum of bronze, and featherweight Karriss Artingstall having already departed after winning a creditable bronze medal.
Main image: Ben Whittaker. Photo: GB Boxing.