Yafai thrills in Tokyo, now one step from gold

Britain’s Galal Yafai will fight for flyweight gold after a thrilling 3-2 semi-final victory against Kazakhstan’s Saken Bibossinov in the Tokyo Olympics on Thursday.

The 28-year-old from Birmingham, fighting in his second Olympics, began round one at a breakneck pace, raining punches to the head and torso of the Kazakh, who at times looked overwhelmed. A heavy left to Bibossinov’s forehead shook him and led the referee to administer a standing eight count. Although Bibossinov found some rhythm late in the round, Yafai swept it on all five judges’ cards.

Bibossinov started round two fast himself, as the men traded punches on the inside. Yafai’s body shots and uppercuts continued to catch the eye, but Bibossinov was now having more success of his own, at times forcing Yafai on to the back foot with long, straight punches. It was a close round, but the Kazakh edged it on three cards to two.

Both men gave it all they had in round three. Bibossinov appeared to be throwing more punches, but Yafai landed the cleaner, more eye-catching shots. Ultimately, the 3-2 split decision verdict in Yafai’s favour was well deserved, particularly given his utter dominance early on. He now has the chance to become just the second Briton to win Olympic flyweight gold, and emulate the achievement of Terry Spinks at the Melbourne Games of 1956.

Yafai will face Carlo Palaam of the Philippines in the gold medal match. The Filipino beat home favourite Ryomei Tanaka 5-0 in his semi-final. He is seeking to become the first ever Filipino to win Olympic boxing gold in what has been a great games for the Philippines team, with three of their four boxers guaranteed to win medals. Palaam, however, is their sole remaining hope for gold.

Elsewhere in the Tokyo ring today, the United States’ wait for a first male Olympic gold since Andre Ward won at light-heavyweight in 2004 goes on after Duke Ragan lost a split decision to Albert Batyrgaziev, who is fighting for the Russian Olympic Committee, in the featherweight final.

The showdown was an all-pro match-up – the 23-year-old Ragan, who hails from Cincinnati, Ohio – has a 4-0 (1 KO) pro record, while Batyrgaziev is 3-0 (3 KOs).

American hopes of a gold medal at these Games now rest with either lightweight Keyshawn Davis or super-heavyweight Richard Torrez.

Earlier, Kellie Harrington of Ireland reached the female lightweight final after beating Sudaporn Seesondee of Thailand – conqueror of Britain’s Caroline Dubois – on the tightest of 3-2 split decisions. The showdown was a rematch of the showdown in New Delhi between the duo at the 2018 World Amateur Championships, which Harrington also won.

The semi-final was a nip and tuck contest but Harrington landed the more eye-catching shots, including some big lefts over the top. The 31-year-old Irishwoman will face Beatriz Ferreira of Brazil in the final. The Brazilian defeated Mira Potkonen of Finland 5-0 in the other semi-final.

Main image: GB Boxing.