Ben Whittaker and Frazer Clarke lick wounds as Great Britain clinch marvellous Tokyo 2020 legacy

The Wolverhampton star fell short in the gold medal fight to the slick Cuban Arlen Lopez, as the big Uzbek Bakhodir Jalolov proved too much for Team GB’s boxing captain

Steve Bunce
Wednesday 04 August 2021 13:31
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It ended in tears for Ben Whittaker when he lost a split decision in the light-heavyweight final to yet another Cuban, Arlen Lopez, in Tokyo on Wednesday.

It was simply a fight too far for Whittaker, his fifth of the tournament, and he left the ring in tears; Lopez dropped to his knees in relief. Lopez won gold in Rio, but he could have lost against Whittaker.

It is never easy beating a good Cuban, dealing with the pressure of a final and trying to fight against the fatigue from four fights in such a short time; Whittaker won the last round, lost the split 4-1 and was still emotionally drained at the medal ceremony. He refused to hang the silver medal around his neck, tucked it in his pocket and left straight away.

A few minutes before Whittaker there was a bloody exit for Frazer Clarke in his super-heavyweight semi-final against Bakhodir Jalolov, who is understandably known as “The Big Uzbek”.

Clarke had cuts over both eyes from his quarter-final and they were patched with a transparent skin-like substance, but in round three, Jalolov opened up a third and far more damaging gash over Clarke’s right eye. The doctor correctly ended the bloodbath a minute and nine seconds into round three. Clarke had his bronze, a medal forged from 10 years of hard, hard graft.

Whittaker exchanges punches with Cuban Lopez

Jalolov is quick, smart, enormous and dangerous; he is on an unbeaten sequence of 37 and has also knocked out eight in the pro game. He fights Ricardo Torrez Jr of the USA in Sunday’s final. The Big Uzbek knocked out Torrez Jr in Russia in 2019.

Clarke will look at his future after a great decade as part of the GB team.

On Tuesday morning the journey, dream and trip ended for Pat McCormack in the welterweight final against another Cuban, Roniel Iglesias. It was close in the first, nothing in it, but a short counter after three or so seconds of round two dropped McCormack. It was ruled a slip, it was not; McCormack was hurt and it ruined any plans. The Cuban boxers, as Sugar Ray Leonard proved in his 1976 Olympic final, are brilliant bullies.

A cut over the right eye of Frazer Clarke led to his semi-final stoppage

Iglesias took control, won with a score of 5-0 and added this gold to his collection of a gold from London and a bronze from Beijing. Iglesias is coming back in Paris, McCormack is going pro now. His brother Luke lost last week to yet another Cuban, Andy Cruz, and the McCormack twins will soon be selling out venues in Newcastle.

“My amateur career is over,” confirmed McCormack. “Ten years I have been part of the GB team and now I’m done; I’m ready for the next step.”

On Tuesday, Gamal Yafai beat a Cuban to reach tomorrow’s flyweight semi-final and create a piece of history by securing a sixth medal for this team. A British boxer getting a verdict over a Cuban is a rare event in the Olympics, trust me, but Yafai was simply too determined for Yosbany Veitia. The Cuban coaching team was furious, but Yafai richly deserved the 3-2 verdict. He fights a Kazak, Saken Bibossinov, in the semi-final.

Frazer Clarke walks away with a bronze from Tokyo 2020

The Olympic test finished for Caroline Dubois, only 20 and the youngest in the team, in a scrappy fight against a hard Thai, Sudaporn Seesondee. It finished before the medals, but after Dubois had beaten two women and pushed the veteran to the very edge; Dubois lost by just one point on one of the three scorecards. It was not a robbery, but she so easily could have got the nod and secured a bronze. The Olympic boxing tournament will not define Dubois, but it has made her.

In Tokyo the GB boxers are collecting medals, licking wounds and planning futures. Some will be back, others will take the money, but none will fade quickly. The great Tokyo boxing event is not over just yet; Yafai fights on Thursday and then No 1 seed Lauren Price has her semi-final on Friday. It has been a marvel, six medals and their final shades yet to be determined.

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