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Heavyweight favourites clash in first round

Patrick Vignal | August 14, 2004 08:25 IST

The eagerly anticipated Olympic boxing battle between Cuba and Russia will not take long to materialise.

Friday's draw paired the two favourites for the showcase heavyweight title, Cuban Odlanier Solis and Russian Alexander Alekseev, against each other in a first-round bout.

The amateur sport's two superpowers will also meet in the opening round of the light-heavyweight class with an intriguing clash between Yoan Hernandez and Evgeny Makarenko.

The situation does not really bother Cuban coach Humberto Rodriguez: "We are satisfied with the draw," he said.

"We're going to have some tough fights against the Russians but our aim as always is to win the gold medals in all divisions. We respect everybody but fear no one."

Russian Oleg Saitov was given a seemingly easy start to his quest for a third welterweight title, against Morocco's Miloud Ait Hammi.

Britain's one-man boxing team, 17-year-old lightweight Amir Khan, can expect a partisan crowd in his first fight on Monday, against local hope Marios Kaperonis.

"It will be difficult as I'm sure he will have a lot of support but Amir has boxed in foreign countries before so he is used to that and I am sure he will rise to the occasion," said British coach Terry Edwards.

The draw for the tournament starting on Saturday did not include Ukrainian light-welterweight Ihor Pashchuk, who was disqualified after failing a medical examination.

Pashchuk, who reached the final of this year's European championship, did not pass the tests conducted on Friday before the weigh-in at the Peristeri hall.

His disqualification means there are 283 left in the competition instead of the initial 286.

Kenya's David Munyasia was thrown out of the Games on Tuesday after testing positive for a recreational drug.

Also missing is the only other Kenyan, Suleiman Bilali, who pulled out last week because of injuries sustained when he was attacked and robbed near his home.

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