By Jake Donovan
The final four bouts of the light heavyweight division cap Wednesday evening's actions. Yamaguchi Falcao of Brazil began things with a major upset, scoring an 18-15 win over Cuba's Julio Cesar la Cruz.
Cuba had been storming through the competition, but la Cruz couldn't maintain the nation's momentum. Falcao came in with revenge on his mind, having lost to la Cruz in last year's World Amateur Boxing Championships competition among several other times as their paths have often crossed through the years.
Falcao hit his stride in the second round, beating la Cruz to the punch and slowly building momentum towards a major upset in the making.
la Cruz looked like a beaten fighter as the third round developed, trying to increase pressure but failing to put together the necessary rally to deter his longtime adversary.
The win guarantees Brazil three medals in this year's competition. With Adriana Araujo having bowed out in the women's lightweight semifinals earlier in the afternoon, just two fighters remain in the hunt for Team Brazil - the other being Esquiva Falcao, Yamaguchi's younger brother.
Falcao will now face Egor Mekhontcev of Russia in Friday's semifinals.
Mekhontcev's trip to the Final Four was well-earned, surviving a war of attrition to outpoint Elshod Rahmanov of Uzbekistan by a score of 19-15.
Rahmonov was very much in the fight throughout, fighting like a man who proudly served as his nation's flag bearer during the Olympic's opening ceremonies. Mekhontcev had a fight on his hands, but was up to the task as he surged late with everything on the line. An eight-count late in the fight told the tale of what had transpired, as the Russian light heavyweight powered his way to the finish line.
Adilbek Niyazymbetov helped stopped the bleeding for a Kazakhstan team that had previously suffered three defeats on the day. The 2011 World Amateur Championships Silver medalist overcame a knockdown to take a 13-10 win over Iran's Ehsan Rouzbahani.
Niyazymbetov was in control early on but suffered a true knockdown when he got careless and literally lead his guard down in round two. The sequence was enough to instill confidence in Rouzbahani, who served as the aggressor for the remainder of the bout.
All that was missing was effective aggression. Rouzbahani kept charging forward but was unable to close the gap as Niyazymbetov wisely kept outside the Iranian's punching range. The adjustment was enough to advance to the finish line and give his nation its only win on the day.
Despite suffering three previous losses, Kazakhstan is still guaranteed four medals in this year's competition. The tally is four more than Iran, with their last hopes riding on Rouzbahani, who left the ring dejected and tearful in realizing a golden opportunity was missed.
Awaiting Niyazymbetov in the Final Four is Ukrainian light heavyweight Oleksandr Gvozdyk, who barely outlasted Abdelhafid Benchalba of Algeria in a 19-17 nailbiter that came down to a controversial call with time expired.
The two fought on even terms for the entire bout, before Gvozdyk broke through in the final round. Two standing-eight counts had Benchalba in trouble, but the lone remaining member of Algeria's boxing squad refused to roll over.
The two traded all the way to the end before getting tied up at the bell. However, Benchalba was determined to have initiated a clinch, receiving a public warning as the clock read 0:00.
The two-point penalty in Gvozdyk's favor provided the margin of victory on the cards as Ukraine is guaranteed five medals this year.
The light heavyweight semifinals take place Friday, August 10. The winners go on to the finals, while the losers will share Olympic bronze.
Up now: Oleksandr Gvozdyk (Ukraine) vs. Abdelhafid Benchabla (Algeria)
Light Heavyweight Quarterfinals (Wednesday, August 8):
Yamaguchi Falcao (Brazil) def. Julio Cesar la Cruz (Cuba) , 18-15
Egor Mekhontcev (Russia) def. Elshod Rahmanov (Uzbekistan), 19-15
Adilbek Niyazymbetov (Kazakhstan) def. Ehsan Rouzbahani (Iran), 13-10
Oleksandr Gvozdyk (Ukraine) def. Abdelhafid Benchabla (Algeria), 19-17
Light Heavyweight Semifinals (Medal round - Friday, August 10):
Yamaguchi Falcao (Brazil) vs. Egor Mekhontcev (Russia)
Adilbek Niyazymbetov (Kazakhstan) vs. Oleksandr Gvozdyk (Ukraine)
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
Adilbek Niyazymbetov (Kazakhstan) def. Carlos Gongora (Ecuador), 13-5
Ehsan Rouzbahani (Iran) def. Bahram Muzaffer (Turkey), 18-12
Oleksandr Gvozdyk (Ukraine) def. Osmar Bravo (Nicaragua), 18-6
Abdelhafid Benchabla (Algeria) def. Enrico Kolling (Germany), 12-9
Light Heavyweight - Round of 32 Results (Monday, July 30):
Ihab Almatbouli (Jordan) def. Lukmon Lawal (Nigeria), 19-7
Yamaguchi Falcao Florentino (Brazil) def. Sumit Sangwan (India), 15-14
Fanlong Meng (China) def. Ahmed Barki (Morocco), 17-8
Yahia El-Mekachari (Tunisia) def. Jakhon Qurbonov (Tajikistan), 16-8
Damien Hooper (Australia) def. Marcus Browne (United States), 13-11
Carlos Gongora (Ecuador) vs Vatan Huseynli (Azerbaijan), 9-8
Ehsan Rouzbahani (Iran) def. Jeysson Monroy (Colombia), 12-10
Oleksandr Gvozdyk (Ukraine) vs Mikhail Dauhaliavets (Belarus), 18-10
Osmar Bravo (Nicaragua) def. Bosko Draskovic (Montenegro), 16-11
Enrico Kolling (Germany) def. Christian Donfack Adjoufack (Cameroon), 15-6
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox
Tags: Amateur Boxing