Posted Jul 28, 2012By GREG BEACHAM, AP Sports Writer
LONDON (AP) — U.S. bantamweight Joseph Diaz Jr. got the Olympic boxing tournament off to an entertaining start Saturday with a stylish 19-9 victory over Ukraine’s Pavlo Ishchenko in the opening bout.
British middleweight Anthony Ogogo won the hosts’ first bout, beating the Dominican Republic’s Junior Castillo 13-6 to thrill a raucous crowd at ExCel.
Ireland’s John Joe Nevin and Darren O’Neill also rode the crowd’s cheers to opening-round victories, while Diaz became a crowd favorite after the Los Angeles-area native put on a rousing display of speed and power.
An elite pro prospect, Diaz repeatedly snapped back Ishchenko’s head with uppercuts and quick strikes during a dominant third round.
Former Russian world champion Sergey Vodopyanov also won his opening bout.
Diaz earned a second-round bout Wednesday with Cuba’s Lazaro Alvarez, the tournament’s top-seeded boxer — but the 19-year-old American from South El Monte, Calif., has captured the attention of promoters, managers and the entire bantamweight division.
“I had a really tough draw, and I know the Cuban is the No. 1 seed, but I’m confident,” Diaz said. “I think I’m giving the whole Team USA a boost. Everybody will be even more motivated.”
Diaz skipped the opening ceremonies Friday night, staying in his room to study Ishchenko’s previous bouts on YouTube. Diaz relied on that scouting and his ample natural talent to blast Ishchenko, repeatedly catching his opponent in the later minutes with those unblocked, head-moving punches that consistently count for points in amateur boxing.
“I felt like (Ishchenko) got a little tired,” Diaz said. “I picked it up in the second round, and then I picked it up even more in the third round.”
Ogogo already is a popular fighter at home, where he stars in commercials. After his solid victory, the British middleweight revealed his mother went into the hospital six weeks ago after a brain hemorrhage left her in a coma.
Ogogo says his mother is doing “really well” — and she’s just down the hall at the hospital from her oldest daughter, who went into labor with her second child shortly before Ogogo’s bout. Ogogo’s other sisters attended his fight.
“Hopefully I’ll get out of here and find out I have a new niece or nephew,” he said.
Georgian middleweight Merab Turkadze forfeited his evening bout after failing to make weight, allowing Algeria’s Amine Mohammed Ouadahi to win by walkover.
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