|Hooper shines in Olympic boxing tourney|
01 August 2012
LONDON: Australia's Damien Hooper made headlines inside and outside the ring at the Olympic boxing tournament here on Monday.
The hugely talented 20-year-old light heavyweight landed the first blow to a previously unbeaten United States team by beating the highly-rated Marcus Browne 13-11 in an engrossing contest.
It justified the belief among his compatriots that he can end Australia's 24-year wait for an Olympic boxing medal.
However by entering the arena dressed in a T-shirt with the Aboriginal flag he fell foul of International Olympic Committee (IOC) rules which state only flags of competing nations can be displayed at Games events.
But an unrepentant Hooper, who shortly before these Games was disciplined and sent home for a disagreement with the coaching staff, insisted he had no regrets about his actions.
Hooper, who was the first indigenous Australian boxer to triumph at junior world title level when he won Youth Olympics gold in 2010, had a thrilling battle with Browne.
The American took a one point lead into the final round but that was erased when he then had to undergo a standing count midway through the last and although the 21-year-old American fought back strongly it was not enough.
Hooper, who reached the quarter-finals of last year's world championships, said Browne had been running scared in the final round.
Hooper will have an even tougher examination next time out as he is up against the highly-rated fourth-seeded Russian Igor Mekhontcev.
However, his task is minor compared to that of fellow light heavyweight Ihab Almatbouli, who will now fight top seeded Cuban Julio la Cruz Peraza.
But the Jordanian was content to revel in the moment after making history for his country.
The 26-year-old from the Palestinian refugee camp of Al-Baqaa, on the outskirts of Amman, became the first Jordanian to contest an Olympic boxing bout on Monday and capped it by beating Nigerian Lukmon Lawal 19-7.
There was no such fairytale for Ajmal Faisal as the 21-year-old Afghan was outclassed by the vastly more experienced Frenchman Nordine Oubaali.
However, he left happy having overcome political opposition to his Olympic participation from Taliban insurgents and other Afghan groups. (AFP)
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