The two finalists in the Olympic light flyweight competition barely got their semifinal matches and now one of them will feel quite fortunate to achieve Olympic gold.
Shiming Zou of China survived a very determined Paddy Barnes of Ireland in one of the 49 kg semifinal matches, with Kaeo Pongprayoon of Thailand had a narrow win over David Ayrapetyan of Russia. They will meet for the gold on Saturday night at the ExCel Arena in London.
Zou had already beaten Barnes in the Olympics before, having scored an astonishing 15-0 win in the 2008 semifinals. This time Barnes was substantially more competitive. And he wanted to get off to a good start, so he concentrated on putting Zou into a corner. But when you have been in the business for as long as Zou has, you learn how to counterpunch with some authority. So he did score, and often, and took an 8-5 lead at the end of the first round.
However, Barnes proved to be of sterner stuff than the last time these two faced, and he actually drew in the second round (3-3) won the last round from the world champion, thus forcing a “countback” situation where the scoring goes back to the blows in which two of the five judges determined to be clean, rather than the customary three, as way of breaking ties.
So it was a tough loss for the Irishman to take, and he duplicated his bronze from four years ago.
Zou, who is known by some of the “Knight of Lightning,” has been working at a world-class level for a long time. In 2003, he got to the third round of the World Championships before losing to Sergei Kazakov. That provided an excellent springboard for him to go to the 2004 Olympics, where he beat Rau’Shee Warren, the vanquished U.S. Olympian but lost to Cuba’s Yan Bartelimi.
There was a vindication for him as he won the World Championships for the first time in 2005, and then won that title again in 2007. He routed Ayrapetyan 23-6 along the way, which was obviously quite impressive.
Then he struck gold at the Olympics in 2008, winning all the way through to the final and then capturing the championship when Mongolia’s Pürevdorj Serdamba had to retire with a shoulder injury. Obviously that was no fluke, as he was able to win the World Championships once again in 2011. At age 31, this is very much a “professional” amateur competitor.
He will face off against Pongprayoon, who held on 13-12 to beat Ayrapetyan. This will be a rematch; in the 2011 World Championships, he had a hard time working up some offense, losing a 14-8 decision to Zou in the third round of the competition.
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