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Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Recap of the Tokyo Olympics

Pavlo Ishchenko was the last Jewish boxer to fight in the Olympics when he competed for Ukraine in 2012. The Ukrainian-Israeli bantamweight went on to win his three pro fights. Though no Jewish boxers participated this year in Tokyo, the Games did have a Jewish angle... although it's a bit of stretch.

First of all, the boxing competition held in the sacred shrine of sumo wrestling, Kokukigan Arena, was much better run than in recent Olympics primarily because of AIBA's absence. Under AIBA, Olympic boxing had come to be defined by incompetence and corruption. This time there were some minor controversies- controversy is like boxing's shadow, it seems to follow the sport. But by and large the judging was fair and the referees- except for their ridiculous obsession with the fighters keeping their heads up- were as well.

Jewish boxing fans likely rooted for their co-nationalists. For Americans that meant admiring the impressive performances of the gritty Oshea Jones, Duke Ragan who showed poise and strong combination punching, Richard Torrez Jr. whose volume punching and strong left pulled off a remarkable  upset against Kazakhstan's Kamshybek Kunkabayev, and Keyshawn Davis who has the skills and the mentality to become a pro star.

Among the heavier weights on the men's side, Uzbekistan's gold medalist Bakhodir Jalolov (8-0 as a pro), Russia's silver medalist Muslim Gadzhimagomedov, New Zealand's bronze medalist David Nyika (1-0 as a pro), Torrez, and Kunkabayev (3-0 as a pro) all showed quality in multiple bouts.

The middle weights had plenty talent. At light heavyweight, Azerbaijan's Loren Alfonso and Great Britain's Ben Whittaker were such slick boxers while Russia's  Iman Khataev was unusually skilled for a man built like a tank. At middleweight Ukrainian Oleksander Khyzniak displayed precise aggression, but a left hook in the gold medal match ended his championship chances. Bronze medalist Eumir Marcial of the Philippines (1-0 as a pro),  Euri Cendeno of the Dominican Republic, and Ablikan Amankul were also worthy of note. Great Britain's Pat McCormack looked good in winning the silver medal at welter.

At the lighter weights, Armenian lightweight bronze medalist Hovhannes Bachkov (2-0 as a pro) and flyweight silver medalist Carlo Paalam of the Philippines were strong. And of course almost every member of the Cuban men's boxing team dominated their weight class.

On the women's side, flyweight gold medalist Stoyka Krasteva of Bulgaria, Brazilian lightweight silver medalist Beatriz Ferreira, and Great Britain's middleweight gold medalist Lauren Price all deserve recognition.

And while there were no Jewish boxers this time around, perhaps Yiddish-speaking fans rooted for Tajikistan's light heavyweight Shabbos Negmatulloev in his round of 32 match. Negmatulloev is quite literally a Shabbos goy even if he never spends a Friday night flicking on a light switch for an observant Jew.

It isn't know if welterweight Aliaksandr Radzionau is a rad zion-ist, but in any event the Belarussian made the round of 16. A Namibian lightweight shares not one but two names with the first female rabbi in modern history, Regina Jonas. Jonas Jonas also made it to the round of 16. And finally,  Russian welterweight bronze medalist Andrey Zamkovoy's opponents may have lamented their losses by uttering the last syllable of his surname, "Oy!" I told you it would be a stretch.

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