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Team GB's best boxing team in 101 years as McCormack wins silver & Yafai guarantees bronze
McCormack beaten by Cuba's Roniel Iglesias in final. Yafai beats Cuba's Yosbany Veitia in flyweight quarter-final.
Pat McCormack lost his final in the welterweight division of the Olympic boxing tournament. But the silver medal he will take home to County Durham constitutes part of the biggest haul of boxing awards Great Britain has achieved at the Games since 1920.
The moment earlier in the evening that the Birmingham lightweight Galal Yafai advanced to the semi-final of his competition, thus guaranteeing himself at least a bronze, meant Britain will have accumulated six medals in Tokyo. Given that the last time they won that many there were only twelve nations taking part in the whole Games, the fact they did so when 76 countries had sent participants to the boxing tournament alone, suggests they are doing something right.
“It’s a great team, something to be proud of,” said McCormack. “We’re a team, we all train together, push each other on, win tournaments together. That’s why we’re so good.”
For McCormack, the problem was he was facing a representative of the real heavyweights of the Olympic boxing ring: Cuba. The gold Roniel Iglesias won by beating him here was the 38th gold the island nation has won in the ring (by contrast Britain has won 18, many dating from the days when we were largely fighting among ourselves). It was Iglesias’s second gold, following the victory he had in the light-welterweight division in London in 2012. Now here he was lording it again, doing a little soft shoe shuffle of delight when his victory was confirmed.
“It is what it is. I can have no complaints,” said McCormack, philosophical with silver. “I lost to a very good boxer.”
The 26-year-old from the Birtley Boxing Club had arrived in the magnificent Kokugican sumo arena looking more than confident. Bouncing in to Queen’s We Will Rock You, flashing a thumbs up to his twin brother - and fellow Olympian - Luke who was with the rest of the GB team watching from the balcony, he appeared more than ready.
But in Olympic boxing there is one piece of received wisdom above all others: don’t lose your first round. With only three available, to go immediately behind in the scoring generally has catastrophic complications. What’s more, if you are going to go behind, don’t do it to a Cuban. Yet, when the scores were revealed on the screen above the ring after the first frenetic three minutes of jab and counter jab, it was clear McCormack was trailing. True, it was a split decision 4-1 among the five judges, but you had to wonder what bout the representative from Bulgaria was watching. The momentum was evidently with his opponent.
And the problem was Iglesias (who, as far as we know, is no relation to Julio) was the wiliest of campaigners. Now 32, the veteran had an ability to keep out of the way of everything McCormack threw. Plus, when he unleashed his own weaponry, particularly from his fierce right hand, the points rapidly accumulated.
Soon after the critical second round began, the one in which he had quickly to establish himself, McCormack was on his backside. He insisted afterwards he had lost his balance, but replays suggested he had been caught on the chin. Fortunately, the referee took his view and allowed the fight to continue. But the points drain was continuous.
Up in the balcony, Luke was still yelling: “patient, Pat, patient”. Sadly, after it was clear Iglesias had won the second round too, the time for patience was rapidly diminishing. Not that McCormack had an alternative. His opponent’s uncanny ability to avoid most of the punches he threw was rapidly tiring the Briton; his effort in the third turned soon into desperation.
When it was over, as the two boxers stood either side of the referee waiting for the announcer to conclude his pointless pausing and tell us who had won, McCormack was already applauding the victor. It was a hugely generous thing to do in defeat. But he was more than aware that the chance to top the podium had eluded him.
“Oh aye,” he said. “They tell us the scores as the rounds go on so I knew I was behind.”
Now he will leave Team GB and try his hand as a professional, a move not available to Iglesias or his Cuban teammates.
“It’s been a long time coming, what with covid and everything,” he said of his decision. “But I’m an Olympic silver medallist, it’s a good platform for me to go on from here.”
He is not the only Briton in possession of such a calling card. Five of his colleagues are now similarly able to make their way into the professional ranks. It is some boxing talent factory, Team GB.
As it happened
That's all folks
Thanks for joining us as always. The night session in the Athletics is under way and you can follow that here.
𝐇𝐈𝐒𝐓𝐎𝐑𝐘 𝐌𝐀𝐊𝐄𝐑𝐒 🇬🇧🥊
With 6⃣ medals secured at #Tokyo2020, a new record haul for British boxing is set and marks the country's best #Olympics performance since 1⃣9⃣2⃣0⃣.
What. A. Team. 🔥#TeamGB | #TeamGBBoxing | #MakeAmazingHappen pic.twitter.com/yO1ZO6bhs3
— GB Boxing (@gbboxing) August 3, 2021
RESULT: Roniel Iglesias wins
Silver for Pat McCormack and Team GB. Iglesias drops to his knees as he is named as the winner
Third round: Pat McCormack vs Roniel Iglesias
The judges give Iglesias a 5-0 sweep. McCormack needs the biggest round of his life. A knockout ideally.
McCormack has to go for it. He throws a powerful right but Iglesias responds with one of his own.
One minute to go. McCormack seems to be tiring. Iglesias is showboating now. He knows he's got the job done.
Iglesias rocks McCormack and it's all over. The Cubans celebrate. They know their man has won.
Second round: Pat McCormack vs Roniel Iglesias
The five judges have Iglesias ahead by 4 to 1. Iglesias drops McCormack but the ref says no knockdown. The Brit needs to get going quickly.
McCormack is doing a lot of holding, not enough punches. The Brit then catches the Cuban in the back of the head.
Big shot by McCormack and Iglesias has a cut to his right eye.
First round: Pat McCormack vs Roniel Iglesias
Cagey start by the two men. Few punches landed in the opening minute. Iglesias catches the Brit with a left hand.
The Cuban is on the front foot. Both men working hard to create openings. McCormack does a little dance. Bit early for that.
The round ends with McCormack on the ropes as Iglesias lands with a right.
Here we go
Washington's Pat McCormack strides into the ring. Roniel Iglesias follows him shortly after.
Can McCormack claim 14th gold medal for Team GB?
Friends and family watching
— Jeff Brown (@JeffAB61) August 3, 2021
How Pat McCormack reached the final
Still to come...Pat McCormack goes for gold
“I’m made up to make history,” said Yafai after his fight. “But then I’d joked with [GB teammates] Ben [Whitaker] and Frazer [Clarke] telling them if they were going to themselves a medal I wasn't going to miss out was I?”
Back home in Birmingham his boxing brothers Garmal and Kai, the former WBA super-flyweight world champion, had set their alarms to tune in to watch.
“I’ve already had texts from them today before the fight, they’ll be made up,” he said. “Now I’ve got a medal, but obviously I don't want it to be bronze.”
By Jim White
Veitia - 29, 28, 28, 27, 27
Yafai - 28, 29, 29, 30, 30
The winning moment
#TeamGB's Galal Yafai has guaranteed himself at least a bronze medal in the men's flyweight boxing.
Watch #Tokyo2020 on BBC Red Button 🔴 or @BBCiPlayer now ➡ https://t.co/1nuS7AvblW #bbcolympics pic.twitter.com/1Was4ZB50A
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) August 3, 2021
RESULT: YAFAI WINS
It is a split victory for Team GB's Yafai - 4:1.
Third round: Galal Yafai vs Yosbany Veitia
Into the final round. Veitia leads on the judges card. Yafai needs a big round. And he's on the front foot again.
Veitia is ducking and diving out of the way of Yafai's punches. Yafai lands with a left and then a right to the body.
One minute left. Veitia is coming back, he has to. Yafai just keeps coming. Terrific hand speed this deep into the contest.
Both men think they have won. We'll find out soon.
Second round: Galal Yafai vs Yosbany Veitia
Yafai continues to be on the front foot. Coming forward at every opportunity. Good defence by Veitia.
Both men trading big blows. But Yafai is landing the better punches.
One minute to go. It's all Yafai at the moment. Veitia is on the defence but is counter-attacking when he can.
Left hand and then an uppercut from Veitia. Fabolous end to the round. Breathless stuff.
First round: Galal Yafai vs Yosbany Veitia
Fast start by the Cuban. Both men throwing punches freely. Lovely uppercut by Yafai stings his man.
One minute to go. Yafai aiming for the head and body. It's been an all action start.
The judges will like this round from Yafai. The Cuban is rattled.
Yafai fights for a chance to win a medal next...
What happened earlier
Sena Irie of Japan has claimed the first-ever women's featherweight boxing gold medal with a unanimous decision over the Philippines' Nesthy Petecio.
Irie became the first female boxer to win a medal for Japan when she secured the first gold of the Tokyo boxing tournament by sweeping the third round on all five judges' cards at the Kokugikan Arena. Irie's crisper punches won over the judges in a bout with plenty of clinching.
Petecio settled for the Philippines' first boxing medal of any kind since 1996, but Manny Pacquiao's home nation is in contention for at least two more medals in Tokyo.
Featherweight was one of two women's weight classes added to the Olympics in Tokyo. The women's field also was expanded to 100 fighters from 36 in its first two Olympics.
Italy's Irma Testa and Britain's Karriss Artingstall won the division's inaugural bronze medals.
How Galal Yafai reached the quarter-finals
9.30am: VEITIA Yosbany vs YAFAI Galal - Flyweight (48-52kg) Quarterfinal 3
11:05am: McCORMACK Pat vs IGLESIAS Roniel - Welterweight (63-69kg) Final
Pat McCormack will fight for men's welterweight gold at the Olympic Games this morning after his semi-final opponent Aidan Walsh was forced to withdraw due to injury.
The Irish fighter sustained an ankle injury during his quarter-final win over Merven Clair of Mauritius on Friday and has been ruled out following a scan.
McCormack, who had been scheduled to face Walsh at lunchtime on Sunday, will go straight through to face Roniel Iglesias of Cuba in Tuesday's final, while Walsh must settle for bronze.
The Olympic Federation of Ireland said in a statement: "The decision has been made to withdraw Aidan Walsh from the semi-final of the men's welterweight competition at the Olympic Games.
"The Belfast boxer was due to fight in Sunday's semi-final against Pat McCormack, but due to an ankle injury sustained during his quarter-final bout with Mervin Clair, the decision to withdraw him was made in conjunction with his medical team.
"Walsh had initially hoped to compete and waited to give himself every opportunity to do so. However subsequent scans and medical reviews have now ruled out this possibility."
Walsh emerged as a surprise medal contender for Ireland having admitted he almost quit the sport after failing to make the team for the Rio Olympics.
Ireland's boxing team leader Bernard Dunne said: "What Aidan did this week is an incredible achievement.
"His performance throughout the tournament has been outstanding, and it is great to see him write his name in the annals of Irish sport."
Meanwhile, Galal Yafai knows improvements must be made before his men's quarter-final against Cuba's Yosvany Veitia after the Birmingham flyweight edged out the elusive Patrick Chinyemba by a close split decision, winning on three scorecards.
Yafai landed some eye-catching blows, with his Zambian opponent taking a standing eight count in the second round, but he was also frustrated for large spells.
He said: "If I box like that again I don't deserve a medal, do I?"