Oleksandr Khyzhniak has not lost since failing to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The 61-fight win streak and a shot at Gold nearly disappeared in an instant, but the middleweight representative for Ukraine dug deep to outlast Philippines' Eumir Marcial in an all-out slugfest. Khyzhniak won on three (30-27, 29-28, 29-28) of the five judges to position Ukraine for a shot at first-ever Gold medal at middleweight.
Marcial takes home a Bronze medal, after having heard the scorecards for the first time in Tokyo. The Filipino southpaw entered the fight having scored first-round stoppage wins in each of his two Olympic bouts. There was little chance of repeating that feat on Thursday, though Marcial fought well enough to take the lead on three of the five cards after one.
The round also saw Marcial suffer a cut high atop his scalp, with blood pouring into his left eye during the one-minute rest period. It never became a factor, though Khyzhniak's aggression and come forward style became just a little bit too much to handle. The Ukrainian middleweight was effective with his right hand and left hook, although Marcial did manage to catch him with an uppercut.
Marcial was ahead on two cards and Khyzhniak one with two judges scoring the bout even heading into the final round. Marcial needed to win just on the card of either of the two judges who had it even, in order to take a split decision and fight for Gold.
It didn't happen.
Khyzhniak dialed up the pressure in the third and final round. Marcial was more than game for the cause, but just not effective enough to get the scorecards to break his way.
Marcial dedicated the tournament to his late brother Eliver, who passed away at age 39 last October—just two months prior to the Filipino's lone pro bout which took place last December. Marcial will return to the pros and under the tutelage of Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach and legendary countryman Manny Pacquiao whose MP Promotions serves as his promoter.
Khyzhniak will face Brazil's Hebert Conceicao Sousa for Gold on Saturday, August 7. Sousa advances following a split decision win over Gleb Bakshi (ROC).
Marcial and Bakshi take home Bronze for their respective nations.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox