DAY TWO – JULY 29

DISCRETION, we are often told, is the better part of valour. But for GB’s Fred Evans, on the second day of Olympic competition, that was for another time. He announced himself at London 2012 with daring that bordered on reckless but was, undoubtedly, crowd-pleasing.

The wild nature of the initial assault he unleashed at Algeria’s Ilyas Abbadi was uncharacteristic of the southpaw counter-puncher but sent the packed ExCel arena into a frenzy of applause. Given the Union flags waving in the air, the deep roars of “Freddie, Freddie, Freddie”, it was understandable for Evans to abandon the science of his craft and charge his man.

Fred backed the speed of his hands and threw hard combinations. But the Algerian responded in kind, pumping hooks out from either arm and catching Fred high on the head. That was unsettling to see but it made for a thrilling spectacle.

The Welshman, a 2011 European champion, got on his one-two and found success, his lead southpaw uppercut slanting through. But Fred didn’t exit Abbadi’s range fast enough and Ilyas tagged him back. Gradually Evans’ timing returned to him as he banged in a rear straight left and moved out off the back of it.

Abbadi shifted him to the side with a left hook in the second but with the will of the crowd filling him, Evans wouldn’t let that hurt him. His feet were guiding him forward and back. The Algerian swung at him. Fred’s reaction was fast, ducking it, but it was a sign he was waiting in the pocket.

Before the end of the second round Ilyas tried to bull forward but Fred sensed the openings and had the space to carve out clear connections. He covered in the teeth of Abbadi’s attack, before slashing his hook across. Threat remained in the air around the two.

Fred was still letting too much through. But he was the more hurtful, burying a right hook in Ilyas’ body. The Algerian dabbed back with a straight right to the gut. Evans however harnessed the energy of the crowd, deftly switching his feet for the pleasure of the cheering fans. As time ticked away Evans boxed to his rhythm, adding some swagger and closing out an 18-10 win.

“I was here watching [Anthony Ogogo] but it’s nothing compared to when you’re in there yourself and it’s all for you,” said Fred.

“It was just one big buzz when I was in there, unbelievable. A bit more of a lift. I haven’t experienced anything like that before. Going in there just put me on a high. It builds you up inside.

“I know I started swinging sometimes but that’s just a bit of ring rust. Maybe the crowd getting me going a little bit as well. A bit overexcited. That should sharpen me up for the next fight.”

Fred books a grudge match next with Egidijus Kavaliauskas, the Lithuanian who dumped him out of the World Championships via stoppage last year.

“I’m sharper, I’m stronger,” Fred pledged. “He’s going to see a different Fred Evans. This time I’m looking at medals. I don’t see why any of us [in the GB team] can’t come off with good medals. It’s an unbelievable squad.”

The studied composure of Scottish lightweight Josh Taylor contrasted with Evans. The crowd was as manic for him as they had been for the previous two Britons. (Indeed, whenever Mik Basi and Andrew Caulfield were announced as a British referee or judge, they got an enthusiastic cheer too).

Josh trotted to ring centre, raised his fist to salute the crowd, but kept his mind on the task at hand. It was a hard job too. Brazilian lightweight Robson Conceicao had sparred with Taylor and was known to be terribly tricky.

The Scottish southpaw doubled his jab, ahead of a fine straight left. Conceicao chopped a left hook at him as Josh manoeuvred along the outside. Taylor’s left flashed in again and while the Brazilian was attacking, working, Taylor kept his guard tight. His footwork proved key, taking the edge out of Robson’s shots. Josh had a crucial one-point lead after the first round.

“I thought keep doing what I’m doing but up it a little bit,” the Scot said after.

Taylor took his lead hook to Conceicao’s body but, opening to attack, caught himself on a cross. Josh linked his shots together, bringing up a cheer with those strikes. Robson pressed him back to the ropes. The Scot covered, standing a touch too long, but forged an escape route with another left hand.

In the third Taylor swayed his body back from a wide right. Conceicao needed to force it but Josh tied him up, then put those feet to work leaving Robson running after him. The Brazilian landed a clear uppercut before the bell but Taylor had the contest 13-9, maintaining the British team’s momentum through a major test.

“It’s great for British sport, great for British boxing. I didn’t expect it to be full from day one. It’s really surprising and good, having the home crowd and everyone cheering for us for a change.

“I knew what to expect when I came out. From the sparring I did with him, he did pretty much the same thing, coming forward, a strong fighter. The tactics were just to box, move, stick and move, keep it long. That’s what I did and it worked,” said Josh.

“It was very close but again I thought I won it. I was in control. I wanted to get involved and give the crowd a bit of a thrill but it’s not about that. It’s about going out and winning the fight.”

The Brazilian complained, “I’m really disappointed. It wasn’t a fair result. I boxed really well tonight and I think I scored a lot of points but I didn’t get the win because of course it was in his hometown.

“It’s not fair because I think the judges favoured him because of the crowd and that shouldn’t happen in a competition like this. But I can take some positives from this. I boxed well tonight, so I should be proud of myself.”

It doesn’t get any easier for Josh. Next he boxes Italy’s Domenico Valentino, a former World champion and the third seed in this tournament. But by now Taylor’s confidence is firmly established. “I’ll do exactly the same. Keep it long and box him,” he said.

America kept a winning run going with lightweight Jose Ramirez and welterweight Errol Spence. France’s Rachid Azzedine engaged Ramirez in a warm tear-up. Both planted their feet and let their fists do the work. The Frenchman lobbed his right over the top. Jose stood with him, driving his left hook to the body. Jose was forcing himself on to the front foot. He swallowed a straight one-two but firing right hands to the head ushered Azzedine to a corner.

The right hand that sunk into the Frenchman’s body must have hurt but it prompted a blizzard of punches in return. Rachid was fighting to keep himself in it. For a moment Ramirez edged back, on his jab, but Azzedine placed a right hand and Jose tore back into him. A potent left hook saw Rachid sway away. Ramirez won 21-20, though the margin ought to have been wider.

“You go in a little tense, having a lot of motivation knowing that a lot of people are watching. It tightens your body up a little bit. We’re going to push each other to the top, we’ve a young team but very hungry,” said Ramirez.

“I’m a slow fighter, I tend to break my opponents throughout the rounds and sometimes three rounds is not enough. It could be a disadvantage but I can’t think about it like that. I’m doing Olympic boxing right now, I’m doing three rounds. You’ve got to adjust to this kind of fighting and try to fix all those mistakes. I need to be a faster starter and finish hard.”

The Frenchman felt he had got his tactics wrong. “I was fighting with my heart,” he said. “Not my head.” Be that as it may, the two combined to put on a great show.

The USA’s Errol Spence, 69 kgs, wasn’t fluent against Myke Ribeiro de Carvalho but then the Brazilian, while clumsy, was unpredictable. The latter’s left hooks upset his own balance. In the last round Spence’s southpaw right hook had Myke reeling for a moment. By now Spence was moving stylishly, turning his body smoothly behind a left cross and sealing a 16-10 victory.

“I just believe in myself and I picked up the pace,” said Spence. “It’s always a joy to get the first win. I was a little bit nervous but when I heard the crowd shout, ‘USA’, the butterflies went away.”

Irish welterweight Adam Nolan was uncharacteristically aggressive, advancing and cutting off the space for Ecuador’s Carlos Sanchez. That saw him neglect his advantages in height and reach to get involved up close.

Both were southpaws. Nolan swung his left hard yet his jaw had to withstand some heavy right hooks. To finish the second round they traded blows in ring centre. Nolan hooked his rear hand, turned in an uppercut with that left, and in the last stanza opted to stay at a range that suited him, winning 14-8.

“I was a bit overeager to get the win,” Nolan conceded. “The performances to get me here in the first place have been a lot stronger than that. The main thing was to make sure I’m in the last 16. I made it hard for myself.”

Adam will box Russia’s Andrey Zamkovoy tomorrow (Friday August 3). “He’s high up in the ranks but if I perform like I can perform anything’s possible. I beat a couple of Olympians to get here. There’ll be a lot of pressure on the Russian going into this fight. I’ll just try to throw off the shackles a little bit and try to box with a free spirit and improve on the silly things that were letting me down this evening,” he said.

“The support’s been amazing. It got to me a bit, with the crowd. Every time I landed a shot I could hear the crowd shouting me on.”

Also at 69 kgs France’s Alexis Vastine won a quality exchange with Germany’s Patrick Wojcicki 16-12 and Russia’s Andrey Zamkovoy outpointed China’s Qiong Maimaitituersun 16-11.

At lightweight India’s Jai Bhagwan was too much for the Seychelles’ Andrique Allisop, taking it 18-8, while Turkey’s European champion Fatih Keles beat Abdelkader Chadi from Algeria 15-8.

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