Olympics-Boxing-Uzbek Zoirov begins title defence with routine win

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Boxing - Men's Flyweight - Last 32 - Kokugikan Arena - Tokyo, Japan - July 26, 2021. Shakhobidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan in action against Batuhan Ciftci of Turkey Pool via REUTERS/Buda Mendes

TOKYO (Reuters) - Uzbek flyweight Shakhobidin Zoirov kicked off his Olympic title defence with a comfortable unanimous points victory on Monday while Venezuelan Yoel Finol's bid to improve on his silver medal showing from Rio de Janeiro ended in disappointment.

In women's featherweight, world champion Nesthy Petecio ousted top seed Lin Yu-Ting in a closely-fought bout to set up a quarter-final against Colombia's Yeni Marcela Arias Castaneda.

Petecio, who considers compatriot Manny Pacquiao as her hero, and the lanky Lin were on equal footing after the first two rounds but the Filipino edged ahead in the decider to take the contest by a 3-2 split decision.

Finol, 24, had already seen an upgrade to his bronze medal from 2016 after Russian Misha Aloian was disqualified for doping but there will be no further boost as he was outpunched by Japan's Ryomei Tanaka in his opening round in Tokyo.

"I knew he was the silver medallist for the Rio Olympic Games. He is tall, too," Tanaka said. "His weapon is a left straight (punch). My weapon is also left straight. Having the same strength, I wanted to win that."

Colombian Yuberjen Martinez, a Rio silver medallist in light flyweight, will have a stern test of his credentials in the flyweight category when he faces Indian top seed Amit Phangal in the next round.

Martinez outclassed Rajab Otulike Mohammed of Botswana by a unanimous decision win on points in the opening bout of the third day of boxing at the Kokugikan Arena - the spiritual home of Japan's sumo wrestling.

Uzbekistan topped the boxing medals table in Rio and members of their Tokyo contingent came in numbers and with drums to support Zoirov from the stands, creating a festive atmosphere in the bowl-shaped arena in the absence of fans.

Zoirov, who won the 2019 world title and his first three professional bouts, gave them plenty of reasons to celebrate in his fight with Turkey's Batuhan Ciftci.

He kept on firing quick body-head combinations before dancing out of the range of the tall and lean Turk.

One of his left jabs left Ciftci frozen momentarily in the second round of the bout, prompting the referee to give a standing eight count.

While Ciftci escaped a technical knockout and lasted all three rounds against Zoirov, Refugee Olympic Team boxer Eldric Sella suffered defeat in just over a minute.

The Venezuelan-born Sella could not survive the onslaught from Dominican Republic's Euri Cedeno and the referee stopped the middleweight bout in the first round.

(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Ed Osmond)

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