Welcome to London Excel, home of the Olympic fighting events for 2012.
A little over a year ago when many people where still firmly in the complaining camp when it came to the Olympics, at least 3 of my mates turned down the opportunity of going to the boxing when I found some tickets on a German website. That was a mistake.
As with all the events we have been to so far it was excellently organised. Barely any queues and with well placed beer en route to watch Rebecca Addlington secure bronze in the pool. Walking into the arena, a difference in the make up of the crowd was immediately obvious in comparison to the events I have been to so far. Gone were the families and in were the testosterone charged males. The place was full to a 10,000 person capacity, all rearing to watch men beat the hell out of each other.
A roar greeted the first fighters from USA and France. I was excited. The muscle bound hard men of the Olympics were coming out to show us what a real man is. Out they came and... really? Seriously? I was confused and, I shouldn't really say but will do anyway, a touch amused.Yup, not known to me before that moment, I had landed tickets to the last 16 of the fly division. Believe or not, that means sub 52 kg blokes (basically 8 stone and less). That is smaller than my sister. Muscled up for sure, but they guys were so small that when they jumped into the ring you could barely see them over the ropes!
That all said, the blokes were ridiculously fast and in at least two of the fights went at each other hell for leather. All flailing arms, bobs and weaves. The French guy eventually pipped the Yankee by a point, before the atmosphere went up a couple of gears to welcome an Irish fighter to the ring. It was great to see such support for an Irish guy in London and chants of "IRELAND, IRELAND" ruled out as he easily progressed to the next round.
That was though nothing compared to the reception that Brit Andrew Selby received when coming into the ring to take on a Kazakhstani. The place literally shook. He rode the crest of the wave and eventually won through 19-15 to the last 8. With beverage in hand, the crowd roared out "GB GB GB" and "SELLLLLBY" and looked thoroughly satisfied with themselves.
The welter weights were up next. Still only under 69 kg, but these guys looked hard. Amongst others, we saw a mightily impressive Cuban, a fantastically and colourfully supported Venezuelan, a lanky yet relatively ineffectual Japanese and a no nonsense Ukrainian. The best part though was watching an Indian guy defeat the last American left in the competition. As the pundit put it, USA amateur boxing was on the canvas with no boxers left in the last 8 of any division. Shocking when you consider that the USA have won at least 1 boxing medal in every post war Games.
Another event at the Olympics and more good times. Not quite as quirky and fun as the Beach Volleyball, but a new experience for me and a very good one at that. It has also taught me to be more wary of little people with gloves on... Next step hockey and the Olympic park...