By Charles Jay
They’re the littlest guys boxing in these Olympic Games, but they’ve got the biggest hearts. That might sound like a cliche, but that’s not far from the truth.
In the light flyweight (49 kg max.) class on Tuesday, Cuba’s southpaw stylist Yosbany Veitia Soto was close to his best, engineering a sensational 26-4 win over Australia’s Billy Ward. Veitia Soto was extremely accurate and had Ward off-balance nearly the entire bout. There was too much speed exhibited by the slick southpaw in the end.
Billy Ward, Australia, exchanges punches with Yosbany Veitia Soto Cuba. Men’s Light Fly 46-49kg Boxing Preliminaries round of 32. London 2012 Olympic Games, Boxing. South Arena 2 ExCeL Arena, Royal Victoria Dock, London, England. Picture: Caroline Quinn/AIBA
Veitia Soto currently carries a world rating of #22 by AIBA (the International Boxing Association), and he fought above that level in Tuesday’s action. His reward for his complete domination of Ward is that he gets to fight the #2 AIBA light flyweight, Shiming Zou, who also happens to be the defending Olympic in the next round of competition.
There is very little question that Thomas Essomba of the Cameroon is one of the favorites to medal in this Olympics. The 24-year-old, who won the gold at the All-Africa Games last year, beat Abdelali Daraa of Morocco 13-10. Essomba’s win was not overwhelming, but it was highlighted by a second-round knockdown. This was one of those bouts that, due to the sometimes strange nature of the Olympic draw, pitted two medal competitors against each other. Essomba came into the tournamnet rated #4 by AIBA, while Daraa claimed the #8 spot.
A veteran of the “Road to London” program, Essomba’s facing a very stiff challenge in the next round of competition, with Patrick Barnes waiting. Barnes won a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, and won the European amateur title as well as the Commonwealth Games in 2010.
Jeremy Beccu of France was also in action against Birzhan Zhakypov of Kazakhstan; the Frenchman gave up the edge in experience but he was able to hold his own, staying very close all throughout the fight. He actually held a one-point lead on the cards going into the final stanza, but Zhakypov, a 28-year-old who was in the 2008 Olympics, came on to grab the slight advantage in what turned out to be a decisive third round. In the final analysis of the judges, it was a razor-thin 18-17 nod for Zhakypov.
In the second round, Serdamba Purevdorj of Mongolia, the sixth-rated light flyweight on the AIBA list, will await Devendro Singh Laishram, one of the India’s best hopes for a medal. Laishram was not extended to much in his match against Bayron Molina Figueroa, who will return to Honduras the victim of a first-round stoppage.