31 July 2012

South Africa: Lusizi Revives SA Boxing's Olympic Hopes

While Cameron van der Burgh captured a gold medal on Sunday night in the swimming pool, welterweight boxer Siphiwe Lusizi delivered an important win for South Africa.

He defeated Iran's Ahmed Ahmed 17-13 to record South Africa's first win in Olympic boxing since Danie Venter beat Syria's Ihab al-Youssef 12-9 in the light-heavyweight category at Sydney in 2000 before losing to India's Gurcharan Singh in the his next bout.

Sonjica beaten

The only other South African boxer at the London Olympics, Ayabonga Sonjica, was beaten 15-6 on points in his first round bantamweight contest by 2009 world champion, Detelin Dalakliev of Bulgaria.

Lusizi next faces Venezuela's Gabriel Maestre Perez, who saw off another Iranian, Amin Ghasemi Pour, in his first outing. A win would see Lusizi through to the quarterfinals.

The 25-year-old Venezuelan was a fifth place finisher at the 2011 Pan American Games after being well beaten by eventual champion, Carlos Banteux of Cuba, in the quarterfinals. He won his opening bout at the 2011 World Championships, but then exited in the second round.

African Olympic qualifying

Lusizi was narrowly beaten in the semi-finals of the African Olympic qualifying boxing tournament by Mohamed Diaby in May. However, the Mali boxer was later disqualified for doping.

Lusizi missed last year's World Championships because they interfered with his studies, but he finished 17th at the 2009 World Champs. Perez finished 17th at last year's championships.

Since South Africa returned to the Olympic Games in 1992, no boxer has managed to win more than a single bout. Before the country's ban from the Games, boxing was its most successful Olympic sport.

South African Olympic success

In the 12 Olympic Games held from 1904 and 1960, South Africa won six gold, four silver and nine bronze medals, for a total of 19 medals in the boxing ring.

The first boxing medal was won at the 1920 Antwerp Olympics, at which South Africa won 10 medals. Bantamweight boxer Clarence Walker was one of two South African gold medallists.

Four years later, in Paris, William Smith provided South Africa with its second Olympic bantamweight champion in succession. Having just turned 20, he was at that time the youngest ever Olympic boxing champion.

In the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics Games, Harry Isaacs won South Africa's sole boxing medal, with a bronze in the bantamweight division.

Two champions

At Los Angeles in 1932, David Carstens lifted the light-heavyweight title and Lawrence Stevens captured the lightweight gold medal. Eddie Peirce was a bronze medal winner in the middleweight division.

South Africa won only one medal at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. It came from a boxer once again, this time from featherweight Charles Catterall.

It was 12 years before the next Olympics were held. The host city was London for a second time, and all of South Africa's medals came from boxers as the country topped the medal standings in the sport.

Outstanding Boxer of the Games

Gerald Dreyer was crowned lightweight champion, while George Hunter won in the light-heavyweight category and was also named the Oustanding Boxer of the Games.

Dennis Shepherd, competing in the featherweight class, claimed silver and heavyweight John Arthur won a bronze medal.

At Helsinki in 1952, Theunis van Schalkwyk took home a silver medal in the light-middleweight class. Bronze medals went to flyweight competitor Willie Toweel, featherwight Leonard Leisching, and heavyweight Andies Nieman.

South African boxing success continued at Melbourne in 1956 where Daan Bekker won a bronze medal in the heavyweight division and Henry Loubscher matched him with a bronze in the light-welterweight class.

Four years later, in the country's last Olympic Games until the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Daan Bekker improved from a bronze to a silver medal winner to become the last South African boxer to win an Olympic medal.

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