LONDON (Reuters) - Briton Anthony Joshua brought the house down with a huge final round to take the super-heavyweight title and end the absorbing boxing action in fine style after classy fighters from Cuba and Ukraine delivered more gold.
With Cuban teenager Robeisy Ramirez Carrazana impressing on his way to the flyweight title and Ukraine’s Vasyl Lomachenko strolling to the lightweight gold, it was over to the big men of the boxing ring for the final act of the tournament.
Poor defense left the Briton three points behind after two rounds of his bout with Italian policeman Roberto Cammarelle, but Joshua finally delivered some thumping shots of his own to bring the passionate crowd to their feet as the noise hit fever pitch.
After a pause, the judges gave the Briton the victory on countback, much to the displeasure of the Italians who protested the result to governing body AIBA, leaving the crowd waiting nervously for 10 minutes before Joshua was confirmed the winner.
“I gave it my all in the third round, I never panicked and I will keep on pushing until that last bell,” Joshua told reporters. “My legs and everything were killing me, sometimes I wanted to stop but my mind was working and my arms were just flying around.”
Joshua was joined for photos by former professional heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis and Britain’s last Olympic super-heavyweight champion Audley Harrison, who has endured a tough career since leaving the amateur ranks.
The temptation of professional cash was of no interest to the towering 22-year-old from London.
“To leave something as great as the GB set-up just because of money would be a big mistake. I don’t want to lose that just because of a bit of money thrown in my face,” said Joshua, who only took up boxing after the Beijing Games four years ago.
Joshua’s jubilation at claiming the 13th gold in the boxing ring at the London Games was a memorable moment but did not match the performances of the three women champions, which was still drawing praise from the AIBA President Wu Ching-Kuo.
“The women’s boxers have shown their best performances, highly skilled, concentration and shown sincerity,” Wu told reporters before the last of the men’s finals.
Attempting to match the women’s crowd-pleasing style was classy Cuban Carrazana, who won the flyweight gold with another mature and impressive performance that belied his 18 years.
Carrazana soaked up the punishment from Mongolian challenger Tugstsogt Nyambayar before firing off uppercuts and hooks from all angles as his opponent struggled to match his speed.
The gold medal was Cuba’s second of the London Games and helped repair some of the damage to the reputation of the great boxing nation after they returned from Beijing four years ago without a title for the first time in two decades.
However, the Cubans, who have won 34 golds in the Olympic ring, were disappointed with their tally in London.
“I am not completely happy because we had two world champions who did not get a medal,” coach Rolando Acebal.
“We’ve lost a lot of time looking for a good selection of athletes. Boxing nowadays is very different from how it used to be so we had to fight hard to get people into the Olympics.”
Ukraine do not seem to have that problem as they claimed five boxing medals in London, although the old guard remain the country’s prized assets.
Lomachenko was a nailed on certainty for gold before the London Games and the Ukrainian delivered as he followed up his Beijing Games featherweight gold with the lightweight title.
The all-action 24-year-old had his South Korean challenger Han Soon-chul beaten by the first round as he pummeled away en route to a 19-9 victory that drew a hug and high praise from his compatriot and professional heavyweight champion Vladimir Klitschko at ringside.
“I would like to dedicate this win to my family and all the friends who supported me and my trainer and idol,” Lomanchenko said of his father Anatoly whose face he has tattooed on his abdomen.
Despite Lomanchenko and Carrazana catching the eye throughout the two weeks of boxing in London, the award for men’s fighter of the Games went to welterweight gold medalist Serik Sapiyev of Kazakhstan.
Sapiyev jabbed Britain’s Freddy Evans out of their final clash to take his country’s first boxing gold of the Games.
Additional reporting by Neil Maidment; editing by Michael Holden