Brazil has been sending boxers to the summer Olympics for a long time, and there have certainly been some good fighters from the country. Prior to today, the nation had won just four medals, none of them gold. Robson Conceiçāo put an end to that streak, claiming lightweight (60kg) gold with a win over France’s Sofiane Oumiha.
It’s something of a storybook ending for Conceiçāo, and given the relentless cries of corruption that sting amateur boxing, it would be easy to think, if you hadn’t seen the fights, that it’s a bit too coincidental that the no-golds streak ends for Brazil in Rio de Janeiro.
But Conceiçāo, 27, was always considered a serious contender in the division, with high hopes that he could deliver that elusive gold medal. After a bye in the round of 32, he faced Tajikistan’s Anvar Yunusov in the round of 16. Yunusov had injured his right arm in his first fight, and gave it his best shot, but had to retire from the bout after the first round, which Conceiçāo dominated against a one-armed opponent.
Uzbekistan’s Hurshid Tojibaev fell in the quarterfinals, and that put Conceiçāo, the No. 4 seed for the tournament, up against Cuba’s Lázaro Álvarez, the top seed and a bantamweight bronze medalist in 2012. Conceiçāo got the nod over Álvarez, not without some griping, but it was at the very least far from a robbery, a high-level boxing match that most of us would have loved to see going 10 rounds instead of three.
Oumiha, 21, had a magnificent run of his own. In the first round, he defeated Teófimo Lopez of Honduras in an exciting fight, then knocked off Thailand’s Amnat Ruenroeng, a former professional flyweight titleholder, in the round of 16.
Oumiha then upset second-seeded Albert Selimov of Azerbaijan, a very experienced amateur standout, and followed that with a win over third-seeded Otgondalai Dorjnyambuu of Mongolia.
The final, though, was Conceiçāo’s stage, and he knew it. Boxing beautifully in the first two rounds, he built up an insurmountable lead against his young opponent, who came out for the third doing everything he could to shock the world and knock Conceiçāo out. That, however, was not in the cards, and as the fans in Rio counted down the final seconds, you could feel even through an internet stream the jubilation of the home fans, as they were watching one of their own get ready to have a gold medal placed around his neck for the first time ever in this sport.