| LONDON, July 30
LONDON, July 30 Ihab Almatbouli became the first
fighter to represent Jordan at an Olympic Games on Monday and
did so in style, dancing around the ring and delivering a flurry
of stinging shots to record his country's first boxing victory.
Almatbouli, a 26-year-old light heavyweight who lives in the
Palestinian refugee camp of Baqa'a, thumped Nigeria's Lukmon
Lawal by 19 points to 7 to the delight of some 20 team mates and
officials whose cheers and chants drowned out the packed arena.
The shaven headed fighter said back in Baqa'a, 20 kilometres
north of Jordan's capital Amman and home to some 80,000 people,
those who usually crowd into cafes to watch soccer matches will
have watched his fight instead and he was happy to make them
"It's a great honour to represent my country at the
Olympics, an incredible feeling and god willing I'm going to
progress in the next round," Almatbouli, who dedicated his win
to the King of Jordan, told reporters.
"Hopefully with a good fight and good progress, I am going
to be a role model."
Jordan is represented at the Games by nine athletes
including sprinter Rima Taha, better known in her home country
for appearing in the Arab version of the popular television show
Almatbouli responded to his noisy support by putting on a
real show, particularly in the third round where he forced the
referee to call a standing eight count.
Then, in a rare moment when Lawal put him under pressure,
the Jordanian simply danced out of the way of his punches with
Muhammad Ali-style nonchalance.
It was a far cry from the 2007 world championships when he
collapsed in his corner after a fight and was only revived one
minute later. Almatbouli, whose five brothers are also boxers,
said he was simply never prepared to give up.
"After the difficult life I've had, with all the
difficulties I never stopped sport, I always continued non
stop," said Almatbouli who next faces world amateur champion and
top seed Julio la Cruz Peraza of Cuba on Saturday.
(Reporting by Padraic Halpin, editing by Justin Palmer)