CHINA stole the limelight from the mighty Cubans by winning their first two Olympic boxing titles to deafening roars from a thrilled crowd yesterday.
Zou Shiming, 27, started the party by winning in unexpectedly easy fashion, his Mongolian opponent retiring with a shoulder injury early in the second round of their light-flyweight final.
Shiming, who had won China’s first boxing medal with a bronze in Athens four years ago, draped himself in the Chinese flag and burst into tears during the medal ceremony.
Light-heavyweight Zhang Xiaoping later doubled the hosts’ tally by out-pointing Kenny Egan 11-7, a verdict met by boos from a small but raucous Irish contingent, who felt the score did not reflect the bout.
Cuba were pinning their last hopes on bantamweight Yankiel Leon and welterweight Carlos Banteaux but both lost, to Mongolia’s Badar-Uugan Enkhbat and Kazakh Bakhyt Sarsekbayev respectively.
Apart from the 1984 and 1988 Games, which they boycotted, Cuba had not left without a boxing title since the 1968 Olympics in Mexico.
They had, however, come here with their least-experienced squad in years after a string of defections and were not complaining after grabbing four silver and four bronze medals.
Wild celebrations by the Chinese fans meant a rare feat by Russian Alexey Tishchenko did perhaps not get the attention it deserved.
Featherweight champion at the 2004 Athens Games, the red-haired Siberian used all his experience to win a 11-9 decision over Frenchman Daouda Sow in the lightweight final and become the fourth boxer to win gold in two different weight classes.
The super-heavyweights closed a busy show and two weeks of action with Italian Roberto Cammarelle stopping local favourite Zhang Zhilei in the final round.
Cammarelle, who was 14-4 up when Zhilei received a standing count and was stopped by the referee because of a face wound, gave Italy their first Olympic boxing title since Giovanni Parisi won featherweight gold in 1988 in Seoul.