Enmanuel Reyes fled Cuba to Spain due to believing he would never get a chance to compete at the sport's next level
The heavyweight Olympian delivered in the biggest fight of his career to date. The moment for 'El Profeta' ('The Prophet') came in the form of a stunning second-round knockout of 2016 Olympic Silver medalist Vasiliy Levit.
A combination straight down the middle floored Levit hard, with referee Wulfren Olivares (Colombia) rendering him unable to continue. The fight was stopped at 0:29 of round two Tuesday evening at Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo.
The bout was a rematch from their Box-Am Tournament championship in March, in which Reyes scored an upset win over Levit who was still favored to at least medal in Tokyo. The Kazakh heavyweight returned to the Olympics five years after being robbed of Gold in a controversial points loss to Evgeny Tischenko—a fight which changed a major shakeup in the officiating pool.
No judges were needed this time around, although Levit was already trailing after one round against the younger and sharper shooting Reyes. The scorecards became irrelevant once Reyes rocked and eventually floored Levit early in round two. The fight was stopped immediately thereafter in what has become the biggest story of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to date.
Reyes fled Cuba in 2016, over concern that he would never be given a chance to compete for the national team after years of being stuck behind Erislandy Savon. He now has a chance to send a message to his old team, as he will next face Cuba's Julio La Cruz in the quarterfinal round on Friday.
La Cruz began his quest for a second Olympic medal in as many weight divisions. Five years after capturing Gold at light heavyweight, La Cruz now moves within one win of another medal after outpointing Kenya's Elly Ajowi Ochola.
The difference in class was painfully evident—Ochola bulky and slow, La Cruz perhaps a bit undersized but technically blessed enough to box his way to victory by scores of 30-23, 30-24, 30-24, 30-24 and 30-26.
David Nyika is one of 43 pro boxers who traveled to Tokyo in search of glory on amateur boxing's highest stage. The New Zealander moves one fight closer to claiming at least Bronze following his three-round shutout of Youness Baalla (Morocco) .
All five judges scored the contest 30-27 in favor of Nyika, who went straight to the games following a canceled fight with Justin Huni earlier this year.
Some pros have struggled in returning to amateur style competition, but Nyika nicely adapted to the environment. The 25-year-old—who campaigns as a cruiserweight in the pro ranks and is currently 1-0 (1KOs)—boxed and moved, occasionally planting his feet long enough to connect with crisp hooks and uppercuts on the inside as Baalla miserable struggled to keep pace.
Nyika even survived a bite attempt, turning his shoulder as Baalla attempted a random nibble on his ear. The sequence went unpunished, through proved moot as Nyika was never in fear of losing the bout.
Joining Nyika in the quarterfinal round is Uladzislau Smiahlikau (Belarus), who slugged his way to the next round of competition following a split decision win over Ato Leau Plodzicki-Faoagali (Samoa). All five judges scored the contest 29-28, one for the Samon heavyweight and the other four in favor of Smiahilikau.
Muslim Gadzhimageomedov (ROC) preserved his number-one ranking in the heavyweight division, advancing to the quarterfinal round following a one-sided win over Abdelhafid Benchabla (Algeria). Scores were 30-27 on all five scorecards in the first fight of the Round of 16.
A long afternoon was in store for Benchabla beginning with his ill-prepared corner failing to bring a fitted mouthpiece. The start of the bout was delayed in order to rectify the issue, though the day would never get any better for the Algerian heavyweight.
Gadzhimageomedov had his way from the opening bell, flooring Benchabla in round two courtesy of a right hand behind the ear. The rangy boxer from the Russian Federation was dialed in with his right hand through the duration of the bout as he is now one fight away from securing at least bronze.
Awaiting the ROC heavyweight representative is Ammar Riad Abdul Jabbar (Germany), who advanced following a landslide win over Jose Maria Lucar (Peru) in their quarterfinal matchup. All five judges scored the bout 30-27 in favor of the German boxer, who was the busier fighter and in control of the ring throughout the contest.
Hussein Iashaish (Jordan) is once again an Olympic quarterfinalist, following a split decision victory over number-three seed Julio Cesar Castillo (Ecuador). Both boxers received an opening round bye, with Hussein ending a miserable 2020 run for Jordan in prevailing on four of the five cards, with the dissenting card even.
Iashaish advanced to the quarterfinals in 2016 before losing to eventual Gold medalist Tony Yoka. His opponent on Friday will be Abner Teixeira (Brazil), who won by split decision over Cheavon Clarke (Great Britain) in a grueling affair.
Clarke won 30-27 on the card of Cuban judge Wilfredo Vazquez. The remaining four scores (29-28, 29-28, 29-28, 30-27) all landed in favor of Teixeira, who landed the cleaner and more telling blows over the long haul including a head-jarring uppercut on at least two occasions.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox