Britain's Joshua wins final boxing gold medal
LONDON (AP) - With a low rumble and high-pitched screams, Anthony Joshua's hometown fans stood in unison before the final round of the final bout of the Olympics.
Joshua faced a three-point deficit to the defending super heavyweight champ, a daunting deficit in amateur boxing, and had just three minutes to somehow finish these wildly successful British games atop the podium.
And just like so many British athletes in these remarkable home Olympics, the north Londoner got it done.
Joshua roared back to win a tiebreaker over Italy's Roberto Cammarelle on Sunday, grabbing Britain's third boxing gold medal at the London Games. He managed to keep his eyes dry on the medal stand, but the imposing brawler from Finchley acknowledged he needed some hometown help to rally for the upset.
"I felt the hearts of all these people around this nation,'' Joshua said. "That medal represents my journey, and the support from the team. It's much more than a gold medal. It's a life experience.''
With the medal around his neck and a Union Jack around three sets of broad shoulders, Joshua later posed for photos with Lennox Lewis and Audley Harrison, two icons of British boxing and previous winners of super heavyweight gold.
Joshua's big finish in the tournament's glamour division allowed him to match the gold medals won by bantamweight Luke Campbell and women's flyweight Nicola Adams, part of Britain's five-medal haul from the games that included Freddie Evans' welterweight silver from Sunday.
"This is not only great for British boxing, it's great for Britain as well,'' said Lewis, the native Englishman who won gold for Canada in 1988. "It's going to inspire a generation of boxers. The next Olympics is going to be even bigger and better.''
It's tough to imagine anything much better than Britain's effort at home, right through the last round of this 16-day, 272-fight tournament, when Joshua repeatedly rocked Cammarelle with big shots after the Italian largely controlled the first two rounds. The crowd's intensity rose with every blow, putting a fitting finish on a tournament that was also dogged by protests, a few incompetent referees and plenty of poor sportsmanship.
Joshua's medal ceremony was delayed about 15 minutes while Italy protested the result, but its complaints were swiftly rejected by amateur boxing's governing body. Cammarelle, 32, fought a remarkable bout, nearly holding off his 22-year-old opponent to close his third Olympics.
Sunday's five-fight finale also featured gold-medal victories for perhaps the three most impressive boxers in London: Ukrainian lightweight Vasyl Lomachenko, flyweight Robeisy Ramirez of Cuba, and welterweight Serik Sapiyev of Kazakhstan, who was named the tournament's best boxer.
Lomachenko completed his second straight domination of an Olympic tournament with his second gold medal, cementing his claim as the pound-for-pound champion of amateur boxing with a 19-9 win over South Korea's Han Soon-chul. He followed up his featherweight gold in Beijing with two world championships and this brilliant run in London.
"The first time, I was a bit more excited,'' Lomachenko said. "I am more calm now, but I am still very happy, and delighted to win another medal.''
Lomachenko might soon be challenged for his unofficial pound-for-pound title by the 18-year-old Ramirez, who wrapped up his own spectacular surge with a 17-14 gold-medal victory over Mongolia's tenacious Tugstsogt Nyambayar.
Ramirez won Cuba's second Olympic boxing gold medal of the games in style, while Nyambayar fell just short of winning only the third gold medal in Mongolia's entire Olympic history.
Ramirez led by just one point entering the final round before surviving. He celebrated with teenage glee, doing a few pirouettes after his hand was raised, followed by a few push-ups.
"The moment I heard I won, I fell on the floor, because it was overwhelming,'' Ramirez said. "I am 18 years old, and I am already an Olympic champion. I am becoming part of my country's history.''
After his 17-9 victory over Evans, Sapiyev beat out Lomachenko and Ramirez to win the Val Barker Trophy as the Olympics' best boxer. He is the third Kazakh in the past five years to win the award - a surprising haul for a nation with just six boxing gold medals.
Sapiyev earned redemption for his Olympic performance four years ago in Beijing, where the two-time world champion lost in the first round.
"I have been waiting for this moment for so long,'' Sapiyev said. "In Beijing, I was upset, but I was dreaming about the next Olympics.''
Russian light heavyweight Egor Mekhontsev also claimed a gold medal on the second tiebreaker, barely edging Kazakhstan's Adilbek Niyazymbetov for Russia's only boxing gold in London.
Four former super heavyweight gold medalists were in ExCel arena for the big finale: Lewis, Wladimir Klitschko, Harrison - and Cammarelle, of course. Klitschko won Ukraine's first Olympic boxing gold in 1996 at super heavyweight, and Harrison succeeded him as the division's Olympic champion in 2000.