THE US boxing team suffered their first loss of London 2012 when Marcus Browne, 81 kgs, succumbed 13-11 to Australia’s Damien Hooper.

Browne, a southpaw, started strongly, engaging from the opening bell. He struck Hooper back with force, leaving Damien blinking with surprise. Feeling he’d taken a lead, Browne circled away, choosing his moments to press an attack. Hooper was missing him for the most part, only applying his right hand and stepping out of range towards the end of the first.

Marcus was subdued in the second round, though Hooper did not raise his activity by much. Browne fired a quick combination as the Aussie closed in but Damien stuck to his loose, long-limbed style, looking to whip shots up from his low-slung hands.

The American was still a point ahead as the third round began. Hooper was determined to make a war of it. His right crashed over and he found a left hook. Browne hooked his lead right and pivoted clear. Hooper leaned forward his arms hanging down, a lovely feint as he slotted a weirdly long right flush in Browne’s face.

Damien took heart and his follow-up assault saw Marcus take a standing count. Headlong he went for Browne, hitting him on to the ropes. Marcus was firing back but momentum was with Hooper. Moments before the final bell he sauntered slowly back, arms aloft as the crowd bellowed his name.

“I thought I would have been a lot sharper. I felt awesome but then again he was a good opponent as well,” said Damien. “I was tricking and feinting and throwing all these punches and I was catching him. I could see it in his eyes and in his body language that he didn’t want to be there.

“I was down a point, so desperate, just a bit of pure aggression. That’s what I did. Deep down inside me and that’s what I showed.”

Browne could only rue the advantage he had let slip. “He was a good fighter but it was definitely a learning experience. I was up early on but couldn’t keep it going,” said Marcus. “I could have used speed more and that’s what the corner told me. More speed, less power.”

Hooper is the bad boy of Australian boxing, by far their best medal hope too. He had been asked to leave their training camp briefly in their preparations for the Olympics. He courted censure from the International Olympic Committee by walking to the ring wearing a T-shirt that displayed the Aboriginal flag. (The IOC forbids athletes from making political statements).

After the bout, Hooper blasted, “I’m Aboriginal, representing my culture and not only my country but all my people as well. I’m very proud. I’m happy I did it. I was just thinking about my family and that’s what matters to me. I’m just saying I’m very proud of what I did.”

The day also displayed the abundance of talent in the flyweight division. Thailand’s Chatchai Butdee looks the complete package. At once he found the measure of Selcuk Eker, taunting the Turk with his lead right but punishing him over and over with the left. He hit high hard or whipped the left to Eker’s body, securing a 24-10 win.

Cuban southpaw Robeisy Ramirez looks a serious threat. He stood his ground, while Katsuaki Susa (Japan) strived to get round his guard. Ramirez selected his moments to strike, fast hands carving out scores for a 19-7 win.

Another southpaw, France’s Nordine Oubaali, beat Afghan Ajmal Faisal 22-9. The USA’s three-time Olympian Rau’shee Warren awaits Oubaali tomorrow (Friday August 3). Mongolia’s Tugstsogt Nyambayar dumped Elvin Mamishzada, Azerbaijan, out of the competition with an 18-11 win.

Kazakhstan’s Ilyas Suleimenov came through a messy scrap with Salomo Ntuve. The 6ft Swede couldn’t keep the aggressor off and Suleimenov lunged through, catching him despite their frequent tangles. The Kazakh won 13-8 and now boxes Britain’s gold medal hope Andrew Selby tomorrow.

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