Glorious victory in Rio, but Pat McCormack faces a massive challenge against Cuban star next
Pat McCormack produced one of the displays of the Olympics by a British boxer '“ now he must do it again on Sunday.
Team GB, who plundered the medals at London 2012, have found the going tougher in Rio, where six have been eliminated already.
McCormack was handed a tricky first hurdle when he was paired with Kazakhstan wonderkid, Ablaikhan Zhussupov, in the round of 32.
But the Washington boxer cleared that hurdle with a superb performance to beat the Youth Olympics gold medallist by a split decision last night.
It has set the Birtley ABC star up with an even harder task on Sunday night – but he is not fazed at the prospect of meeting number two seed, Yasniel Toledo López.
The Cuban king is not good, he is sensational, but McCormack is ready.
“I came here knowing I would have to beat all of these guys if I wanted to win, so I might as well get them out of the way early,” he said.
Toledo, who received a bye into the round of 16, will have watched McCormack with interest and he will know the Wearsider is a class act.
Pat, cheered on by a sizeable crowd of support, including twin Luke, controlled the bout from the start and took the verdict 30-27 on the scorecards of the Brazil and Hungary judges.
Remarkably, the Vietnamese judge marked it two rounds to one, 29-28, to Zhussupov but justice was done as the Algerian referee held aloft the right hand of the boxer in the blue corner.
McCormack, the form U64 kilo boxer in the world, made a steady start against the 19-year-old, who came into Rio with a great pedigree.
McCormack landed the first punch of the fight, a nice left hook, followed by two straight rights.
Zhussupov did get through with a left to the body but McCormack finished smartly with two combinations.
Pat began round two in style jolting his opponent before connecting with some sharp lefts and some short and accurate combinations.
All three judges marked the middle session for the Team GB ace to put him in the driving seat going into the last.
Zhussupov faced the prospect of having to come forward in the final round and that suited McCormack, who picked him off with his left and tagged his rival with a left-right-left combo.
The World Olympic Qualifier gold medallist finished with a couple of rights and while judge Trong Vuong gave it to Zhussupov, Marcela Souza and Roland Juhasz awarded the round to Pat and rightly so.
“When they said it was a split decision my heart sunk a little bit,” said McCormack. “ I thought ‘they can’t give it to him?’, I thought I won it very well.
“I’m going to push on for the next one and make sure.
“It’s been a tough start for the team but I have learned from those defeats.
“Normally I’m too tense in my first fight but I boxed quite well and I’m going to let it flow more and get my rhythm going against the Cuban.”