GB featherweight Karriss Artingstall guaranteed herself an Olympic medal as she won her quarter-final at the Kokugikan Arena on Wednesday (July 28). But it was only after a nervy three rounds that Artingstall secured a split decision over Skye Nicolson.
The Australian, a southpaw like Artingstall, moved off and popped through right jabs. The Briton gradually upped her workrate, catching Nicolson with a fine left cross in the second. But it all came down to the third round. Artingstall greater aggression and activity secured her a close victory, a place in the semi-finals and a guaranteed Olympic medal.
“I am just over the moon to have got myself on that podium. I just keep grabbing this lion on my chest and I just can’t believe it. Well I can believe it, obviously, as it’s in front of my eyes, but it’s amazing, I am lost for words,” Artingstall said. “I thought I had done enough. I picked it up in that last round massively. I had to as she is a very clever girl. The first round it went my way, it was close again. The second round she got. Personally I thought I did better in the second round than I did in the first but there we go. I sat down in the corner after the second round and the coach said ‘you need a big round here, you need to put your foot on the gas and go and get it’. I just had to throw more shots, be a bit more clever going in and not try to take as many shots in that last round.
“Getting here is everyone’s dream isn’t it? But then to medal, and get yourself on that podium. Unbelievable and honestly I can’t put into words what it means to me.”
Nicolson said, “It’s heart-breaking. I came here for the gold medal and I really believed I was going to win it so to go out now is really, really hard for me.
“I’m not proud at the way I fought as I did not do enough to win. I can’t be happy, but I felt I did everything I could in the moment. I left it all in there, so I can’t be disappointed with that, but I’m just disappointed I didn’t do enough to get the win.”
GB team mates Ben Whittaker and Lauren Price progressed with dominant victories.
At light-heavyweight Whittaker’s footwork and well placed jabs were too much for Abdelrahman Salah. The Egyptian could not catch up to him and Whittaker took an assured unanimous points victory.
“I just love to go in there and have fun. The coaches don’t like it at times — they’re saying, ‘discipline, discipline, discipline, switch on’ — but when I’m in my own little rhythm I don’t think anybody can beat me,” he said. “It doesn’t work for everyone, but it works for me. It’s what you’ve got to do, just find your own style. I’ve been around long enough. I’m 24. I hope that’s young, but I have been around the block now and I just know what ticks for me when I’m boxing.”
He’s now into the quarterfinals. “I am one fight away from changing my life,” Whittaker said. “Then after that we don’t settle with that [bronze], we try to change the colour.”
Price was in form against Mongolia’s Myagmarjargal Munkhbat. The Welsh star drilled Munkhbat with sharp straight shots when the Mongolian stepped in range. After rocking her with a left cross Price had handed Munkhbat a standing count in the first round and dominated on the judges scorecards, winning a unanimous decision.
“I had a look at her in the first round, see what she did, and she waited off me, which was kind of surprising. But I adapted and just picked my shots nicely so I’m really pleased with my performance,” Price said. “Gold is the aim but everyone in my weight class is at an Olympic Games, everyone is tough. You have got to be on your ‘A’ game to win that fight, so I’m taking it each fight as it comes but gold is the main focus. But I’m not going to think too far ahead of myself, but just enjoy it.”
Irish featherweight Kurt Walker secured a tremendous victory when he outpointed Mirazizbek Mirzakhalilov, Uzbekistan’s strong gold medal favourite. His lateral movement and swift punch-picking made the difference against the marauding aggressor as he won a split decision.
“I’m over the moon. I really can’t explain it, but I worked on it and I knew it was going to happen. I believed. I knew. I’m not surprised,” Walker said. “I’m starting to fully believe in myself and it’s working. Everyone else kept telling me, ‘You’re going to win’ and it stuck to me.
“It’s just brilliant. I never would have thought it before I came, it’s a fairytale. But there is still more work for me to do. I need to recover, go back and get more tactics and hopefully get a medal.”
Irish middleweight Aoife O’Rourke brought industry and positive work to bear against China’s former World gold medallist Qian Li but couldn’t break through, losing a unanimous points verdict.