By Jake Donovan
Light heavyweight action continues with the Round of 16. Four bouts air in the afternoon portion, which began with Julio Cesar la Cruz looking to etch his way into the Cuban boxing history books.
For all of Cuba's rich boxing tradition, the nation has never captured a Gold medal in the light heavyweight division. la Cruz is the top seed in the division and the odds-on favorite to become its first, as evidenced in his 25-8 rout against Ibah Almatbouli of Jordan.
Almatbouli was impressive in advancing to the Round of 16 with a 19-7 win over Lukmon Lawal of Nigeria in the divisions first day of competition on Monday. The Jordan boxer was made to look like a sparring partner against la Cruz, who did as he pleased and was never a threat to lose an exchange, never mind the fight.
Next up for la Cruz is Brazil's Yamaguchi Falcao, who outlasted Fanlong Meng of China in perhaps the closest fight to date in 2012 competition. The two traded the lead on nearly every exchange, with neither enjoying a sizable advantage at any point in the contest.
A 17-17 tie at the end of three rounds went to countback, where Falcao came out ahead to advance to the quarterfinals.
Falcao's placement in the Round of 16 was disputed after receiving a horribly scored 15-14 win over Sumit Sangwan of India. This bout will spark minor debate as well, though in a healthy way as there is a case to be made for both fighters in Saturday's affair.
Elshoud Rasulov of Uzbekistan had little difficulty in getting past Tunisia's Yahia El-Mekechari by score of 13-6. Rasulov took command from the opening bell and was never in danger of losing, though survived a brief scare when he was accidentally tossed to the canvas by El-Mekechari, who was immediately apologetic over the sequence.
Rasulov represented Uzbekistan in the middleweight division during the 2012 Beijing Games. The military vet advanced to the '08 Olympic middleweight quarterfinals before bowing out to old amateur rival and eventual Silver medalist Emilio Correa of Cuba.
Awaiting Rasulov in the quarterfinals is Egor Mekhontcev of Russia, who eliminated Australian hopeful Damien Hooper with a 19-11 win.
Hooper entered the fight still riding high on the emotions of his come-from-behind win over USA's Marcus Browne in the Round of 32 competition earlier in the week. The result was the first loss suffered by Team USA, one that set off an eight-fight losing streak while restoring hope for an Australian boxing squad that had struggled in 2012 competition to that point.
The Cinderella run is over for Hooper, however, as he experienced tough love from the judges and a determined effort from Mekhontcev, who was fighting for the first time in the 2012 Games after receiving an opening round bye. A relatively even fight early on wasn't properly reflected on the scorecards, as Hooper was given little credit for his aggression and clean punching.
A five-point deficit heading into the final round proved insurmountable, but Hooper refused to go down without a fight. Mekhontcev had other ideas, adding to his lead rather than opting to go into cruise control. A mid-rounds exchange saw the Russian get the better of the action, snapping back Hooper's head to force a standing-eight count.
Russia now has four fighters in the quarterfinals, with the potential for one more as David Aryapetyan appears later this evening in light flyweight action.
Hooper's loss puts Australia on the brink of elimination. Its last remaining hope of capturing a medal rests on the shoulders of Jeff Horn, who still has to survive his Round of 16 bout with Abderrazak Houya in continued light welterweight action later today.
Round of 16 Results (Saturday, August 4):
Julio Cesar la Cruz (Cuba) def. Ihab Almatbouli (Jordan), 25-8
Yamaguchi Falcao (Brazil) def. Fanlong Meng (China), 17-17 (countback)
Elshod Rasulov (Uzbekistan) def.
Yahia El-Mekachari (Tunisia), 13-6
Egor Mekhontcev (Russia) def. Damien Hooper (Australia), 19-11
Carlos Gongora (Ecuador) vs. Adilbek Niyazymbetov (Kazakhstan/Received 1st round bye)
Ehsan Rouzbahani (Iran) vs. Bahram Muzaffer (Turkey /Received 1st round bye)
Oleksandr Gvozdyk (Ukraine) vs. Osmar Bravo (Nicaragua)
Enrico Kolling (Germany) vs. Abdelhafid Benchabla (Algeria/Received 1st round bye)
Light Heavyweight Quarterfinals (Wednesday, August 8):
Julio Cesar la Cruz (Cuba) vs. Yamaguchi Falcao (Brazil)
Elshod Rahmanov (Uzbekistan) vs. Egor Mekhontcev (Russia)
TBA vs. TBA
TBA vs. TBA