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Mighty boxer Kindelan bows out in style
August 29, 2004 23:18 IST
Last Updated: August 30, 2004 00:01 IST
Cuban master Mario Kindelan met the future of boxing and survived the experience when he outpointed British teenager Amir Khan in the highlight of final action at the Olympic tournament on Sunday.
The lightweight clash between the 33-year-old Kindelan and Khan, who is nearly half his age at 17, provided a fitting highlight to end two weeks of boxing at the Peristeri hall.
Kindelan helped the mighty Cuban squad prove the decline predicted by their rivals was wishful thinking by winning five golds, one more than their tally from each of the last two Games.
Khan, the revelation of the tournament with dazzling displays on his way to the final, bravely took the battle to the Cuban but the defending champion counter-punched methodically to win a 30-22 decision.
Kindelan will now retire with his reputation as the world's best pound-for-pound amateur boxer intact.
Khan is ready to take over.
"I'm only 17 and I've got so many years in amateur boxing ahead of me," said Khan, immediately setting his sights on the 2008 Games in Beijing.
"Just getting to the final was brilliant. I've learned so much from these Olympics."
Kindelan, a triple world champion, summed up the general feeling with warm praise for the Briton.
"The English boxer is a tremendous fighter and if he does not turn professional, I think he will reign over this weight category for a long time," he said.
While Cuba underlined their dominance, the Americans at least restored pride, winning a title after leaving Sydney without any for the first time at Olympics in over 50 years.
Their only boxer in the finals, light-heavyweight Andre Ward produced a spirited display to outpoint Magomed Aripgadjiev of Belarus in a fierce contest which the American ended with a badly bruised right eye.
"My eye is hurting a little bit but it's worth it," said Ward, who is relatively short and light for his weight class but has plenty of talent.
"I'm fighting bigger, stronger men but somehow, some way I'm coming out victorious," he added.
"I'm just chopping down trees."
Not only Khan emerged in Athens as a bright prospect.
Turkey's Atagun Yalcinkaya, six days younger than Khan, was also trying to become the youngest boxer to win an Olympic boxing title in over 50 years.
Yalcinkaya failed as well, losing on points to Cuba's Yan Bhartelemy in the light-flyweight final, but he will also be one to watch in the years to come.
Kazakhstan's Bakhtiyar Artayev provided evidence that the Cubans are only human when he outpointed Cuba's Lorenzo Aragon in the welterweight final before being named best boxer of the tournament.
Russian Alexander Povetkin faced the easiest task, winning the super-heavyweight title without throwing a punch after his scheduled opponent, Egypt's Mohamed Aly, pulled out because of a shoulder injury.
Russia leave with three golds after confirming they are Cuba's main rivals on the amateur stage.