LONDON, July 28 (Reuters) - When American Joseph Diaz was told who his first Olympic opponent would be after Friday’s draw, he swapped the gym for his laptop and went straight to YouTube to take a first look at what he would be up against.
The homework paid off when Diaz, the youngest member of the U.S. boxing squad at 19, won the opening fight of the London games, beating Ukrainian bantamweight Pavlo Ishchenko 19-9 with more than half the points coming in a blizzard of third round left-hand shots.
“After I got the draw I looked him up on YouTube, a lot of fighters just look up all the fighters that they’re going to be going against, that’s part of our training,” Diaz, who strutted to the ring wearing a stars and stripes bandana, told reporters.
“It felt great just being in the environment,” he said of being the first fighter to climb into the ring. “I just realised this guy is human just like me, he sweats, he bleeds and he’s nervous just like me so I’ve got to do what I do, and I ended up pulling the ‘W’ (win).”
The Californian teenager also had an added incentive to progress to Wednesday’s second round - the thought that a gold medal could potentially help his family out financially after his parents both lost their jobs.
With his father and coach Joseph Snr by his side in London, the American southpaw felt the extra boost needed to dispatch the Ukrainian who almost got the better of a tight first round.
“It really means a lot, they (my family) are out there in the crowd cheering me on, I can feel the momentum. My family’s my everything and I‘m trying to bring back a medal for them and hopefully help them out financially,” Diaz said.
The exciting American next faces top seed and world champion Lazaro Alvarez Estrada of Cuba whom he lost to last year.
Elsewhere in the ultra-competitive 56 kilogramme category, twice world bronze medallist John Joe Nevin of Ireland eased through his opening bout with a 21-6 victory over Denmark’s Dennis Ceylan at the Excel arena.
Syria’s only representative in the ring, 26-year-old Wessam Slamana, was beaten 15-7 by Kazakhstan’s Kanat Abutalipov
Asked what he wanted to say to the people of Syria, Slamana said through a translator that he apologised because he had lost the first bout and that he had tried to win a medal. (Reporting by Padraic Halpin, Editing by Nigel Hunt)