There were controversial, bloody but ultimately glorious scenes for British boxing at Kokugikan Arena as Frazer Clarke secured a berth in the Olympic super heavyweight semi-final by disqualification, after being cut in both eyes during his fight with Mourad Aliev of France.
As the fight came to a halt at the end of the second round, Aliev pushed a cameraman’s lens, stomped on the ring and then, in an extraordinary turn, ended up sitting against the ropes for over an hour. to protest his disqualification.
Then Aliyev spoke of his fury at the “shameful” decision, which he described as a betrayal of the Olympics. He also claimed to have received no warning from the referee. The spokesperson for Aliev, a member of the France coaching team, even alleged some sort of corrupt influence and threatened to quit the sport as a result, saying: “I don’t think they wanted that. France wins a medal. “
None of the cuts to Clarke’s face were caused by an outright butt, but resulted from contact when the two men rubbed their heads, caused by Aliyev in the referee’s opinion. Standing in the mixed zone with blood still flowing from both eyes, Clarke noted that “the modeling career is still ongoing,” before stating that he has now fought Aliyev five times and been cut in four. of these fights in the same way.
Moments before that sensational final fight, Briton Ben Whittaker had beaten Imam Khataev to win a gold medal, a beautiful and skillful performance from the 24-year-old Wolverhampton light heavyweight. With Clarke now certain of at least bronze, British boxers are assured of at least five Olympic medals.
But it was the super-heavyweight clash that provided the drama in Tokyo, and a sense of resentment that was far from over in the end as the French camp raged at length to the assembled global media.
Not that Clarke is too worried. The 29-year-old from Burton-on-Trent is a huge, likeable man, and kind of a father figure in this British squad, who were there in numbers to cheer on their fighters.
“I felt there were a few heads coming in, to be honest. Whether it’s intentional or not, I don’t know. An Orthodox boxer a left-hander – it happens a lot, ”he said. Clarke was also magnanimous about Aliev’s reaction.
“I told him to calm down. I myself have been in these situations. Often times you don’t think with your head, you think with your heart and your emotions are all over the place, I don’t know what he wants to do in the future but I didn’t want him to damage his reputation or be rude to judges and officials.
Clarke will now face Bakhodir Jalolov of Uzbekistan for a chance at the gold. This quarter-final has always been a messy and awkward encounter. It looked like it could be heading for Aliev after the first round as the Frenchman used his left-handed reach to land some killer shots. Clarke was first cut in this round as Aliyev applied his forehead to the area above his eye. He was patched up and got to work within the second, landing decent shots from close range.
Then came the disqualification as Clarke spilled blood again at the end of the second. This was followed by the furious aftermath of Aliev circling the ring, shouting from the roof of this grand old sumo arena, then returning to sit in protest by the ropes surrounded, at a distance, by police officers. security to the puzzled air.
Whittaker’s progress had been simpler. He is a slender and classy fighter, who also makes music in his spare time under the name B £ NZO. He fought Imam Khataev of the Russian Olympic Committee here, a short, stocky man with a head that appears to have been carved out of Grozny granite. Whittaker later revealed that he had beaten Khataev’s brother before and had fought with his opponent when he was younger (“this boy can hit, he almost got me out of the ring”).
But Whittaker was too good here, moving well and increasing his work rate as the fight progressed to take it by split decision. He later said, with a smile, that he was inspired in part by posts on Instagram saying he was going to be eliminated, and paid tribute to his father’s harsh words urging him not to kill himself. content with bronze.
It was time for Pat McCormack’s pass against injured Irishman Aidan Walsh, securing the Sunderland man a fight for the gold medal. And earlier today, Kokugikan Arena saw Ghana win their first Olympic medal since 1992 as flamboyant Samuel Takyi defeated Colombian David Avila Segura to advance to the featherweight semi-finals.
At the final bell, Takyi jumped onto the ring posts then fell and did push-ups in his corner. At that point, it was probably a good thing for him that he had made the split decision, to the cheers of a small Ghanaian delegation.
Britain’s men’s success, along with that of Lauren Price and Karriss Artingstall, means Britain guaranteed five medals at these Olympics, tying the totals from the 1956 and 2012 Games, with two more opportunities to increase that number to to come.