Olympic Heavyweights: Russo Hopes To Go One Step Farther This Time


Clemente Russo won a silver medal for Italy in the 2008 Olympics. This time he seeks to take the final, and most decisive, step of all.

Russo was a dramatic come-from-behind victor over Teymur Mammadov of Azerbijan in the semifinals of the heavyweight competition, while the Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk defeated Tervel Pulev of Bulgaria, and that set up the gold medal final that will be held later today at the ExCel Arena in London.

This will be a rematch, as these two met in the 2008 Olympics, where Russo scored a 7-4 win in the second round of the competition.

Russo won his semifinal match, but not without some struggle. Mammadov actually had a scoring edge at the end of the first round, and then sent Russo to two standing eight counts. As the third round came, Russo found himself down three points, and had to stage a furious rally to land several huge punches, and this impressed the judges, who awarded him a 9-4 margin and thus the bout by a score of 15-13.

Usyk had to get by Pulev, who had just been signed to a deal by AIBA’s pro division, and in this bout there was almost no doubt from the beginning. Usyk threw caution to the winds very early, knocking Pulev down twice in the first round, and building a four-point lead going into the second round. From there it simply got easier, and Usyk literally cruised home with a 21-5 win.

That’s a victory that indicates Usyk might be a lot more trouble for Russo this time around.

Russo, a policeman by “trade,” won the 2007 World Amateur Championships at the 201-pound (91 kg) limit, beating Rakhim Chakkhiev of Russia, and is a former gold medal winner at the European Union Amateur Championships as well. When he was a light heavyweight he had the misfortune of running into Andre Ward in the 2004 Olympics, and was eliminated, as Ward eventually went on to win the gold medal.

In 2008 he returned to the Olympics as a heavyweight, this time losing to Chakkhiev in the finals, but scoring a win over Deontay Wilder along the way to secure the silver medal.

Usyk rose from a #8 seed to win last year’s World Amateur Championships, where he defeated the aforementioned Mammadov in the finals. He also beat Pulev. This represented an improvement over his performance in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where he lost that bout to Russo.

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