Tokyo Olympics: 'Bogies were flying everywhere' as tearful boxer Whittaker celebrated medal

By Sports Desk July 30, 2021

Proud boxing star Ben Whittaker admitted he was a blubbering mess after securing at least a bronze medal for Great Britain at the Tokyo Olympics.

The Wolverhampton-based light heavyweight set up a Sunday semi-final against Russian Olympic Committee's Imam Khataev after scoring a majority points win over Brazilian Keno Machado.

Whittaker was overwhelmed by the result and burst into tears at the realisation he would be taking home a medal.

"That was the hard part, getting that medal," Whittaker said. "I won't relax, but I've pushed through that first door now and all I have to do is start changing that colour. Bronze is a lovely colour but everyone wants gold."

His verdict until beating Machado was that anything less than gold would amount to "nothing", but when the reality that he would be on the podium struck, Whittaker let his emotions spill out.

"I was crying, bogies were flying everywhere. I was trying to keep as calm as I could but I couldn't help it," Whittaker said. "I've just got to compose myself now as Sunday is when it gets real.”

He said his father, a council worker, would usually be at work at 5am but was given permission to stay at home to watch the 24-year-old Olympian in action.

"He hasn't slept all night and he has been giving me tactics, trying to keep me calm but I know my dad when he is nervous. His nervousness was making me a bit nervous," Whittaker said.

"My mum was probably trying to talk to him and he was probably telling her to shut up and whatnot. But bless him, I've done it for him, not just me."

Khataev had a third-round knockout win over Spain's Gazi Jalidov to earn a shot at Whittaker next.

The other light heavy semi-final will see Azerbaijan's Loren Berto Alfonso Dominguez tackle Cuban Arlen Lopez after both enjoyed unanimous judges' verdicts.


CUBAN STAR TAKES DOWN JOHNSON

Cuban welterweight fighter Roniel Iglesias earned a third Olympic medal after sinking American Delante Johnson with a sweep of the scorecards.

After a bronze in Beijing and gold at London in 2012, Iglesias savoured another chance to target the top step of the podium.

The 32-year-old said: "It is my third medal which is very important but what I really want is to win the gold medal. It is a historic moment for me and for my country, Cuba. I am very happy at this achievement."

Russian Andrei Zamkovoi awaits him next, with Great Britain's Pat McCormack tackling Ireland's Aidan Walsh on the opposite side of the draw.


FIRE FUELS JONES GOLD DREAM

American Oshae Jones saw off Dominican Maria Moronta on points in their women's welterweight last-eight clash, and afterwards the 23-year-old from Ohio opened up on the fire that nearly took her life in May.

Jones was woken by banging on the door of her Toledo home as a blaze took hold of her home. Now a guaranteed medallist, she recalled: "We barely got out. We've got pretty noisy neighbours, thank god. Any other neighbourhood, where people mind their business, I would be dead.

"The home is coming together again, slowly but surely. I had to get a whole new roof and inside drywall, wiring. It's a lot, but I keep pushing every day. My boyfriend and I had purchased it. It was a fixer-up and we were almost done. Now we've had to start over.

"It's always in the back of my mind when I am at camp: what I am going to go home to, is the house going to be done? All I can do is give my best here.

"I’ve thought about winning a medal and had a vision of me standing on the podium. I practise my gold-medal speech every day, so I plan on winning."


'FIST THROUGH HIS FACE'

New Zealander David Nyika secured a heavyweight medal by beating Belarusian Uladzislau Smiahlikau emphatically on points, and 2019 World Championship winner Muslim Gadzhimagomedov stands in his way of a place in the final.

If Nyika gets his way, Gadzhimagomedov will not be standing for long when they battle it out on Tuesday.

"Yeah, 'Gadz' is top class. I have nothing but respect for him as he has accomplished so much. But I'm going to try and put my fist through his face," said Nyika.

The 25-year-old Nyika was a flagbearer for his country at the Olympic opening ceremony and is feeling the weight of expectation to deliver.

"Getting bronze doesn't take the pressure off, I'm still under a lot of pressure. The rest of New Zealand is shouting for me but I know I've got a lot more to do," he said.

"I've got a lot to prove, not only to them but to myself. I've been working so hard and mentally I've been through some pretty rugged stuff over the last 18 months and I'm pretty sure I'm going to come out of it on the other side a lot bigger and a lot stronger.

"I'll have proved to myself that I'm worthy of everyone’s respect and the honour that my team has given me."

The opposite heavyweight semi-final will see Brazilian Abner Teixeira tackle Cuban Julio Cruz.

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