American, Cuban in semi-final slugfest
American Ricardo Williams reached the light-welterweight boxing final on Friday after beating Cuban Diogenes Luna in the highest scoring and most remarkable fight of the Olympics.
In a slugging match between two fighters who never gave an inch, Williams beat Luna 42-41 to set up a final against Uzbekistan's world champion Mahamadkadyz Abdullaev.
Luna and Abdullaev's beaten opponent, Algerian Mohamed Allalou, collected bronze medals as losing semi-finalists.
Abdullaev outclassed the Algerian after seven seconds of the second round, breaking out a 15 point lead.
It was Uzbekistan's first Olympic boxing final as an independent nation.
Luna should have been preparing for a fight for the gold instead of contemplating what might have been when leading Williams 12-10 after the first round and 25-19 at the end of the second with the crowd chanting "Cuba, Cuba".
But the third round saw Williams pull back and snatch the lead as both men kept the figures constantly clicking over with the regularity of a petrol pump.
For every punch Luna landed, Williams hit back.
"I hit him with some body shots and I think it wore him down. But he also hit me with some body shots and they wore me down. I take my hat off to him," said Williams.
Until Friday no boxer at the Sydney Games had scored more than 40 points, with only American Ricardo Juarez scoring more than 30, since most had won under the 15-point "mercy" rule long before the tally reached that point.
Williams led 35-33 after the third round and pulled ahead to 39-35 before Luna reeled him back in to level. The American landed again 37 seconds from the bell and another put the contest beyond the reach of the frustrated Cuban.
The Cubans thought they had won. When the winner's hand was raised, coach Alcides Sagarra looked up at the overhead scoreboard and mouthed disbelievingly, "he's lost by one."
Williams was the second U.S. finalist. Cuba have four.
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