RIO DE JANEIRO: Manny Pacquiao-inspired Uzbek fighter Hasanboy Dusmatov defeated American Nico Hernandez with a fully deserved unanimous points win in the semifinals of the light-flyweight division in the Rio Olympics boxing competitions.
The similarly unheralded Dusmatov said he had intently studied Filipino welterweight legend Pacquiao to improve his boxing.
“I really like Pacquiao. He’s my favorite boxer and every time he fights I watch him closely,” he said.
The 20-year-old American Hernandez was disappointed despite taking the first medal of any color for the US in men’s boxing since Beijing 2008, after the team flopped badly in London four years ago.
“He was the better man,” said Hernandez, who had surpassed expectations in reaching the semi-finals, earning a bronze.
“I let him get too close and make it a dirty fight. I didn’t want to go home with a bronze medal, I wanted to go home with a gold.
“Ending the drought of medalling was definitely a great feeling and the first one in eight years, but like I said, I didn’t want to go home with a bronze medal.”
Dusmatov will face Yurberjen Martinez, who can become the first Colombian to win Olympic boxing gold after he shocked a Cuban hot prospect to battle his way into Sunday’s (Monday in Manila) final showdown.
Martinez, 24, outwitted the gifted 19-year-old Joahnys Argilagos in their semifinal match for a split-decision victory, handing Cuba their first loss in Rio.
Argilagos, who said he was shocked by the defeat and had believed he was ahead on the judges’ scorecards, had sparkled on the way into the last four of the competition to underline his rich potential.
But he failed to get to grips with the awkward Martinez and landed few telling shots on the Colombian, who told reporters afterwards it was an emotional day for boxing in his country, which has only ever won three bronze medals in the sport.
“I’m very happy to give this medal to my country. It was something I had dreamed of a lot. It is a triumph for all of Colombia,” said Martinez, for whom this was by far the biggest victory of his career.