Mourad Aliev expected to turn away the challenge of Great Britain's Frazer Clarke to advance to the medal round.
Instead, the French super heavyweight wound up giving Michael Conlan a run for his money with the most dramatic in-ring protest over officiating in the Olympics.
France's Aliev erupted in the moments before and immediately after his being disqualified from his Super Heavyweight quarterfinal bout with Clarke. A point deduction from a headbutt that never took place sent Aliev into a frenzy, as did the ruling from referee Andrew Mustacchio that his night was done, rendering a bloodied Clarke as the winner by disqualification.
The bout was fought at an aggressive if not dirty pace from the opening bell. Aliev was the last fighter left in the Tokyo Olympics for France, doing his part to keep his nation alive as he outfought Clarke in winning the opening round on three of the five scorecards.
Clarke was forced to contend with cuts over his eyes in round two, with the action getting ugly on the inside. Aliev mauled the Brit, hitting him wherever there was an opening until time was called. Time was called when the two were tied up, only for Aliev to continue to throw—including two shots that hit Clarke behind the head.
Still, Mustacchio signaled a headbutt which caused Aliev to explode. He began to storm around the ring, screaming at the referee in disgust over the ruling all while Clarke was being examined by a ringside physician. Aliev upped his protest by spitting out his mouthpiece and attempting to kick it into the stands. He swung and missed, but managed to grab a ringside camera long enough to scream into it "No, no, I win," waving his finger as Clarke was hailed as the official winner.
The decision was immediately appealed by the France coaching staff, with the matter still under review as this goes to publish.
For now, Clarke is assured of at least Bronze. Barring a reversal in the official verdict to a stoppage win for Aliev, it will put him one win away from delivering the first Gold medal at super heavyweight for Great Britain since Anthony Joshua did so in 2012 London.
Aliev is the only seeded super heavyweight to not advance to the medal round.
Meeting Clarke in the August 4 semifinals is Uzbekistan's Bakhodir Jalolov, the division's number-one seed who conquered India's Satish Kumar via unanimous decision.
Scores were 30-27 on all five scorecards in favor of Jalolov, who did his best to remain composed in an ugly fight. Kumar managed to avoid being disciplined for an absurdly high number of rabbit punches allowed in an amatuer fight—an environment where the referees are normally overprotective.
Nevertheless, Jalolov—who is 8-0 (8KOs)—improves on his performance in 2016 where he was eliminated in the quarterfinal round. The 6'7" southpaw is now assured of at least Bronze, and is one win away from competing for Gold.
Richard Torrez Jr. became the first U.S. super heavyweight since Riddick Bowe in 1988 to medal following a split decision win over Cuba's Dainier Pero. Scores were 29-28 on all five cards, one for Pero and with Torrez prevailing on the other four to become the third American to medal in Tokyo.
Pero is the first member of the Cuba team competing in Tokyo to fail to medal. It is also the first loss in this year's Olympics for Cuba, who is now 13-1 heading into August 3.
Full recap of Torrez-Pero can be found here: https://www.boxingscene.com/richard-torrez-jr-rallies-beat-dainier-pero-advances-super-heavyweight-medal-round--159563
Torrez will next face Kamshaybek Kunkabayev (Kazakhstan), who grinded out a win over Ivan Veriasov (ROC). All five judges had it 29-28, one for Veriasov and the other four in favor of Kunkabayev, the tournament's number-two seed.
Veriasov is the third member of ROC to suffer a loss on Sunday and the first who failed to medal. The ROC male boxers entered Sunday with a perfect 12-0 record.
Both semifinal bouts take place August 4, with the winners advancing to the Gold medal round in the very last bout of Olympic competition in any weight on August 8.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox