London 2012 Olympics: Anthony Joshua seals boxing gold and sets sights on Rio
Anthony Joshua brought a tumultuous end to the Olympic boxing tournament with a thrilling countback victory over Roberto Cammarelle yesterday afternoon, and insisted he would relish the opportunity to return to defend his title in Rio in 2016.
Lucrative professional offers are certain to flood in for the unassuming Londoner, who clawed back a three-point deficit with a heroic final-round assault to claim Great Britain’s third boxing gold of the Games by the slightest of margins.
But with the gold medal draped proudly around his neck, Joshua insisted he had no intention of following a path trod by generations of Olympic champions and using his triumph to seek to make an immediate impression in the paid ranks.
Joshua said: “It’s honestly not going to be hard to resist. To leave something as great as the Great Britain set-up just because of money would be a big mistake. I don’t want to lose that because of a bit of money thrown in my face.
“I didn’t grow up with loads of money around me anyway, and I’m happy with the way things are. These memories are priceless. I want to go on and win world and European titles and dominate in the amateurs. That’s where my head is at the minute.”
The Finchley 22-year-old, who was such a late starter in boxing he admitted not even being bothered to watch the action from Beijing on television four years ago, has made extraordinary progress since claiming a world silver medal in Baku last year.
It was Joshua’s quarter-final win over then reigning Olympic champion Cammarelle – in only his second major senior tournament – that catapulted him up the world rankings and turned the unassuming Londoner into one of his sport’s hottest properties.
Gradually, Joshua emerged from a tough draw, enjoying a bit of luck in a close first-round encounter with Cuba’s Erislandy Savon, to set up the most dramatic Olympic finale imaginable with Cammarelle once again standing in the opposite corner.
Down by a point at the end of the first after walking into a succession of right hands in the Italian’s corner, Joshua was struggling to get his shots off and his dream of Olympic gold looked over when Cammarelle extended his lead to three heading into the last. But a super-human final effort by Joshua, inspired by his favourite film 300 about Spartan warriors – saw him pull back the verdict to an 18-18 tie before the announcement of the countback verdict – lent extra drama by an unsuccessful Italian appeal.
Joshua added: “The moral of the film is to never give up, to never surrender, and it was just like that in the third round. My legs were screaming but I kept throwing punches in there and kept pushing to the final bell.”
Joshua’s win helped Great Britain top the boxing medals table with three golds, one silver and one bronze medal, after Welshman Fred Evans was well beaten in his welterweight final by the superb Kazakh Serik Sapiyev.
Evans simply did not get a look-in against the ice-cool former double world champion, whose stiff jab kept the European champion at bay throughout and helped him ease to a 17-9 victory and pick up the prestigious Val Barker Trophy for best boxer in the tournament.
Evans said: “I don’t have any complaints about the result. I could have done things better and I didn’t stick to my game-plan, but I’m only 21 - I’m one of the youngest seniors here - and there is time for me yet.
“I have no plans to turn professional at the moment. I am going to go back and talk to the team, but I’ve still got a lot to learn and a lot of tournaments to fight in. I have funding, so the money is not so much of an issue for me.”
Cammarelle later accused judges of costing him a gold medal. The 32-year-old said he felt like crying and claimed judges had been against him for the past three years, including in his World Championship quarter-final defeat to Joshua. He lost that bout 15-13 but yesterday’s loss was even more agonising as Joshua came from 13-10 behind to win a barnstorming final round, level at 18-18 and triumph on countback.
“I still don’t know why – even with the same score – I was the one to lose,” said Cammarelle. “I thought they would see that I was superior in the fight.”
He said it was “possible” the judges were influenced by a partisan crowd that cheered Joshua’s every punch, but added: “I don’t think the beautiful public ever change the result.”
Insisting he had “nothing against” Joshua, Cammarelle said: “In Baku versus Joshua, I didn’t lose. In Ankara, in the European Championship final against a Russian boxer, I did not lose.”
He added: “It’s now been three years that I feel that the judges are against me.” Asked why it kept happening, he said: “I don’t know. I am a good man. I don’t know if my punch is invisible.”
Cammarelle ruled out taking his protest any further, adding: “I feel tired. I want to go home. Maybe I want to cry.”
There was an even closer decision in the light-heavyweight gold-medal match as Russia’s Egor Mekhontcev won courtesy of the judges’ individual preference. His bout with Kazakhstan’s Adilbek Niyazymbetov was scored 15-15 and the fighters could not even be separated by countback.
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