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Boxer fulfils dream for first Uzbek Rio gold

AFP logoAFP 15/08/2016 by Peter Stebbings
Uzbekistan's Hasanboy Dusmatov celebrates winning against Colombia's Yurberjen Herney Martinez during the men's light fly (46-49kg) final bout in Rio de Janeiro on August 14, 2016 © Provided by AFP Uzbekistan's Hasanboy Dusmatov celebrates winning against Colombia's Yurberjen Herney Martinez during the men's light fly (46-49kg) final bout in Rio de Janeiro on August 14, 2016

A diminutive boxer who as a little boy dreamed of emulating his hero did just that when he won Uzbekistan's first gold medal at the Rio Olympics on Sunday.

Light-flyweight Hasanboy Dusmatov stands only 1.56 metres tall (just over five feet) but he became an Uzbekistan boxing titan by winning only the country's second Olympic boxing title.

Dusmatov, 23, out-foxed on unanimous points Colombia's Yurberjen Martinez, for whom this was also a historic moment -- his country's first boxing silver ever.

Bronze medals went to Cuba's Joahnys Argilagos of Cuba -- the reigning world champion beaten by Martinez in the semi-finals -- and the American Nico Hernandez.

But it was all about Dusmatov, who paraded around the 9,000-seat arena afterwards on the back of one of his trainers, a flag of Uzbekistan slung around his shoulders, after the judges deservedly made him the winner in a cagey contest.

This was an immensely proud moment for Uzbekistan, he said, and dedicated the medal to President Islam Karimov.

Dusmatov's gold adds to the three bronze in Rio for Uzbekistan.

"I am very happy to be the first from Uzbekistan to get a gold medal for the country in Rio," said Dusmatov, whose previous best appearance was the Asian Championships title in 2015.

"I will be back for the Olympics in Tokyo in four years," added Dusmatov, who said he had always wanted to copy Mahammatkodir Abdullaev's gold at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

"When I was a kid I saw Abdullaev getting the gold medal and at the time it was my dream to repeat that and get another one for the country," he said.

Wearing blue, Dusmatov was slightly the busier boxer in the first round, trying to get inside Martinez at every opportunity.

R-L: Cuba's Joahnys Argilagos, USA's Nico Miguel Hernandez, Uzbekistan's Hasanboy Dusmatov and Colombia's Yurberjen Herney Martinez pose with their boxing medals in Rio de Janeiro on August 14, 2016 © Provided by AFP R-L: Cuba's Joahnys Argilagos, USA's Nico Miguel Hernandez, Uzbekistan's Hasanboy Dusmatov and Colombia's Yurberjen Herney Martinez pose with their boxing medals in Rio de Janeiro on August 14, 2016

The Colombian -- roared on by the Brazilians in the crowd and a strong contingent from his home country -- looked a little stiff as the two men probed one another without really ever letting fly.

Martinez, 24, was more aggressive in the even second round, but it was Dusmatov who was landing the telling shots on the counterattack.

The referee twice had to warn Dusmatov to keep his punches above the belt, but he had the momentum and was dictating the tempo.

And in the third round Dusmatov was light on his feet to avoid any trouble, with Martinez appearing to acknowledge that he needed a big round.

He never got it or got to grips with his foe.

The American Hernandez, who surprised in claiming the first Games boxing medal for the US men since Beijing 2008, said he took satisfaction in knowing he had lost out to the eventual Olympic champion.

The United States were under pressure to deliver after the flop of London four years ago.

"It's a great feeling to bring a medal back home," he said, adding that the failure of 2012 "made us want to work harder and turn a negative into a positive.

"And now here I am taking a medal home to the USA."

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