LOCALS IN LONDON
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LONDON — The British boxing team is nearly unbeaten at its home Olympics, while nine straight defeats appeared to finish off the American men — until a late-night reprieve kept one U.S. fighter alive.
Welterweight Freddie Evans and flyweight Andrew Selby added two more impressive wins to Britain's growing collection Friday night, while losses for Rau'shee Warren and Errol Spence appeared to send the Americans home without a medal for the first time in Olympic history.
But about five hours after Indian welterweight Krishan Vikas appeared to clutch and grab his way to a 13-11 win over Spence, AIBA overturned the result of the bout, saying Vikas had committed nine holding fouls in the third round and intentionally spit out his mouthpiece in the second.
Spence advanced to face Russia's Andrey Zamkovoy on Tuesday after the second overturned decision of the Olympics, following the reversal of an Azerbaijani boxer's apparent victory over a Japanese opponent earlier in the week. Spence needs one more win to keep the American team from leaving an Olympics without a boxing medal for the first time.
Evans beat fourth-seeded Egidijus Kavaliauskas of Lithuania 11-7 in the afternoon session, and Selby topped Kazakhstan's Ilyas Suleimenov 19-15 in the evening session to improve the British team to 9-1 with six fighters in strong medal contention. The home crowd cheered wildly for every big punch by the British team, which is riding a wave of hometown support that seems awfully similar to the momentum that carried China to four medals in Beijing.
"I've never experienced anything like it before," Evans said of the support. "It really gives you a bit of a boost. ... They're all top lads here, but I'm confident that I can come back again and keep doing it."
Top-seeded flyweight Misha Aloyan of Russia won his opening Olympic bout at ExCel arena, while Mongolia's Tugstsogt Myambayar upset fourth-seeded Vincenzo Picardi of Italy 17-16. Top-seeded welterweight Taras Shelestyuk and France's Alexis Vastine also advanced in the afternoon, while second-seeded welterweight Serik Sapiyev of Kazakhstan moved into the quarterfinals in the evening.
The hard-punching Evans — or Furious Freddie, as the effusive 21-year-old Welshman is known — rode the support of another frenzied crowd to an upset victory, earning a quarterfinal bout for a medal with Custio Clayton of Canada.
Warren is the first three-time Olympic boxer in U.S. history, but he's now 0-3 after losing 19-18 to France's Nordine Oubaali. The third-seeded U.S. flyweight lost his contact lenses early in the bout, but still thought he might pull out a decision.
Spence then struggled to score against defense-minded Vikas, the third-seeded welterweight. The Indian fighter sat back in a defensive posture for most of the bout, barely protecting a first-round lead by holding and hiding.
"I thought I won the fight," Spence said. "I thought I threw more punches and landed more shots. I thought I was the more aggressive boxer."
About five hours later, AIBA agreed.
Clayton beat Australia's Cameron Hammond 14-11 for his second win in London for the two-man Canadian team, which already has three victories in London after getting shut out in Beijing.
Clayton came on in the third round against Hammond, whose curiously passive strategy forced the referee to warn him twice about not throwing punches. The father of two from Nova Scotia also fought cautiously at first, mindful of Hammond's superior reach, but was more aggressive and accurate throughout.
"I saw he wasn't going to pick it up, so I figured I had to do it," Clayton said. "I just had to move my head more, be more aggressive. ... I couldn't ask for anything better. The first couple of rounds were slow, but I picked it up. It feels great to be here."
Clayton will fight Evans on Tuesday with a chance to secure Canada's first Olympic boxing medal since 1996.
Myambayar and Picardi put on three entertaining rounds, with Myambayar gaining energy from a vocal section of Mongolia fans. Picardi crumpled to his knees and banged his head on the canvas in frustration when the verdict was announced.
Aloyan wasn't seriously tested by Algeria's Brahimi Samir in a 14-9 victory, but his quarterfinal bout will be against promising Puerto Rican teenager Jeyvier Cintron, who knocked off Brazil's Juliao Henriques 18-13.
AIBA has made swift decisions in several disciplinary cases at the Olympics, expelling the referee responsible for the first overturned bout and sanctioning another referee for an overzealous disqualification of an Iranian heavyweight.
AIBA also took the unusual step of releasing every judge's scores from British middleweight Anthony Ogogo's narrow victory over Ukrainian world champion Ievgen Khytrov on Thursday to show an apparent scoring discrepancy appearing in the official results online was misleading.
AIBA's actions satisfied the IOC, according to spokesman Mark Adams.
"They acted as they said they would," Adams said. "If anyone thought they could fix a medal, if they ever thought they did, they were proved wrong in this case. How boxing is governed is a matter for AIBA. We don't have any special concerns. The system is working."