Olympic Lightweights: Lomachenko Carries Favorite’s Role Into Men’s Final

Vasyl Lomachenko is the guy who many observers hailed as the best pound-for-pound competitor in the Olympic Games, at least on the men’s side. Now the Ukrainian machine has one last step to take before claiming Olympic gold, which is a final battle against Soon-Chul Han of South Korea on Sunday.

Lomachenko got by his semifinal match against Yasnier Toledo Lopez of Cuba after a slow start and left no doubt whatsoever about his fitness for the finals. Toledo is a tall, rangy southpaw who offers, at least on the surface, a problematic style for Lomachenko, an aggressive type who you would not call a classic boxer. Toledo landed the best punch of the first round – a body shot that drew the notice of the judges, and was reminiscent of the body shot that knocked Toledo down the last time these two tangled – and the first round was surprisingly even on the cards.

Lomachenko eased out in front in the second round, and then the bout went into the third with Toledo having to make up some ground. That’s a very difficult order of business against Lomachenko, who can keep an opponent busy enough defending himself so that not a lot of offense is mounted. The final score in the bout as 14-11, and that gave the 2008 Olympic gold medalist in the featherweight class a ticket into the final bout.

Han had a challenge against Evaldas Petrauskas, the Youth Olympic champion from two years ago, who was successful in working his way inside and forcing the action. Han tired his best to use his height (5’10”) and range to keep distance, and reached a level of effectiveness that gave him a one-point edge at the end of the first round. As the second and third rounds evolved, Han started to catch Petrauskas coming in, and that ensured a decisive win when the final gong sounded. In the end it was 18-13 for Han, who brings far less in the way of credentials into the gold medal bout than Lomachenko.

Han won his first round match against Mohamed Eliwa of Egypt by a score of 11-6, then added a “countback” win over highly-ranked Belarusian Vazgen Safaryants after a 13-13 draw, and then beat Fazliddin Gaibnazarov of Uzbekistan 16-13 to make it to a guaranteed medal. He can get a lot more than that is he shines on Sunday.

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