LONDON, July 30 (Reuters) - Australian boxer Damien Hooper said it was worth the risk of getting into trouble with officials on Monday when he wore a t-shirt bearing the Aboriginal flag to the ring before his first round win.
The exciting light-heavyweight, no stranger to controversy having been sent home from the 2010 Commonwealth Games and a recent training camp for bad behaviour, said he was proud to represent the indigenous Australian culture.
“Well what do you reckon? I‘m Aboriginal, I‘m representing my culture, not only my country but all of my people as well,” Hooper told reporters when asked why he wore the t-shirt.
”I‘m very proud and that’s what I wanted to do and yeah, I‘m happy I did it.
“I was just thinking about my family and that’s what really matters to me and look what it did, it made my whole performance better with that support behind me.”
“I‘m not saying that I don’t care (about possibly getting into trouble), I‘m just saying I‘m very proud of what I did.”
The Australian Olympic Committee said it would “counsel” Hooper on the rules of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as to the symbols, flags and political messages you can or cannot carry into an Olympic venue.
In the ring, Hooper certainly needed something to spur him on when he found himself trailing American Marcus Browne by a point after two rounds, and the 20-year-old world number two stepped it up in the final round, pressuring Browne into a standing eight count on his way to a deserved 13-11 victory.
Hooper, the third Australian to progress to the second round and regarded as the country’s best chance of a first boxing medal since 1988, faces former world amateur heavyweight champion Egor Mekhontcev of Russia in Saturday’s next round.
A rematch with current world light-heavyweight champion Julio la Cruz Peraza, the Cuban who narrowly knocked Hooper out of last year’s world championships in Baku, could await two rounds later in the semi-finals.
“I thought I would have been a lot sharper but he was a good opponent and he wasn’t going to let me just walk straight over him which I did in the last round,” the multi-tattooed Hooper said of his performance.
“(In the third round) I was tricking and fading and throwing all these punches, I could see it in his eyes and in his body language that he didn’t want to be there.” (additional reporting Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)