By Alan Baldwin
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Uzbekistan’s light-flyweight Hasanboy Dusmatov won the first gold medal of the Olympic boxing competition on Sunday when he beat Colombia’s Yurberjen Martinez on a unanimous points decision.
Martinez took the silver. Losing semi-finalists Joahnys Argilagos of Cuba and Nico Hernandez of the United States won the bronze medals.
The gold was Uzbekistan’s first in Rio while Hernandez’s medal was the first in the ring for the U.S. men since the 2008 Beijing Games when heavyweight Deontay Wilder also won bronze.
Dusmatov promptly dedicated the gold to his country’s president Islam Karimov and said he planned to defend it in Tokyo in four years’ time.
“I used everything that was planned before the fight, all the tactics and techniques I have been taught by my coach,” he said. “I used everything I could.”
With most of the crowd cheering on the Colombian, at the first Olympics in South America, Martinez came out strongly against the Uzbek who kept his poise and caught his opponent on the counter-punch.
All three judges scored the first two rounds to Dusmatov, with only the French judge declaring Martinez to have taken the last round.
Dusmatov, only Uzbekistan’s second Olympic boxing champion after 2000 Olympic light-welterweight gold medalist Mahammatkodir Abdullayev, had beaten Hernandez in the semi-finals.
“When I was a kid, I saw Abdullayev getting the gold medal and I had a dream to repeat the same story and get another for my country,” said Dusmatov, who comes from the same city as the Sydney gold medalist.
Hernandez said his hard work had paid off, and felt that being beaten by the man who went on to win the gold added weight to his medal.
The team’s failure to medal on the men’s side in London had only made the current crop want to work even harder to rectify that, he said.
“I turned the negative into a positive and here I am with the medal, bringing it to the USA. I think it’s going to open a lot of doors for me and my family,” added the American.
“It’s a great feeling getting the team off to a good start…I know it’s going to make my team want to do even better.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris and Andrew Hay)