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ONE WIN AWAY: Yafai in the flyweight final in Tokyo

ONE WIN AWAY: Yafai in the flyweight final in Tokyo

PA Adam Davy

Galal Yafai is just one win away from realising his dream of becoming an Olympic gold medallist after reaching the men’s flyweight final with a split decision triumph over Saken Bibossinov in a three-round firefight.

Yafai exploded out of the traps and his early switch-hitting seemed to confuse his Kazakh opponent, whose legs momentarily buckled after he was caught by a straight left on the ropes, resulting in a standing eight-count.

But Bibossinov, a bronze medallist at the 2019 World Championships, rallied after losing the first round on all five of the judges’ scorecards, refusing to take a backwards step and having success with his all-action style.

However, Yafai was able to avoid a lot of punishment in this thriller and his showing in the first three minutes was ultimately decisive as he was awarded victory by three judges, with the other two siding with Bibossinov.

While Team GB are guaranteed six medals at Tokyo 2020 – their best haul since the 1920 Games in Antwerp – they are yet to have a boxer finish on the top step of the podium, which Yafai will do if he beats Carlo Paalam on Saturday.

Asked what that would mean to him, he responded: “It’s Olympic gold, man, Olympic gold’s crazy, imagine being the Olympic champion!

“It’s something that I’ve dreamed of and I could never see happening – to be in an Olympic final is never something I thought I could do and now I’m in it, it just goes to show if you put in hard work then you reap the rewards.

“I’m always in exciting fights, I should just try to stick on my jab and move around. But I know I need to stick to what I’m doing, it’s worked so far, so I’ll carry on.”

Yafai is the youngest of three boxing brothers. Kal, 32, is a former WBA super-flyweight champion who missed out on London 2012 after losing a box-off against fellow Briton Andrew Selby while Gamal, 30, is an ex-European super-bantamweight titlist.

Yafai, 28, reflected on their upbringing in Birmingham and how they were continually being told off by their mother for fighting in the house.

“My mum was always going mad, ‘take your gloves off, stop hitting your little brother’,” Yafai said.

“If we had a video recorder back then you’d be surprised, it was destined and meant to be. We were fighting every day in the sitting room with gloves on.

“Those two started me off, hopefully I can finish it off now.”

Irish boxer Kellie Harrington advanced into the women’s lightweight final with a narrow split decision victory over Thailand’s Sudaporn Seesondee at the Kokugikan Arena.

Seesondee had edged out London’s Caroline Dubois in a tight contest and this semi-final was another bout where the result was on a knife edge, with little to separate the pair.

While Seesondee upped the tempo in the final round, Harrington was given the verdict on three of the five scorecards.

“I’m a little bit lost for words… I’m speechless,” Harrington said afterwards.

Asked about having to be disciplined against a fighter she beat, also by split decision in the world championship final three years ago, Harrington added: “Put it this way right, I’ve been in Japan I think for 35 days now.

“I’ve been sitting in my room in training camp and then in the (Olympic) Village, looking at the four walls. To the food hall, maybe a five-minute walk back to my room, a little session with the coaches, that is the way life is.

“That’s what dedication is and then that transfers into the ring.”


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