By Patrick Johnston and Padraic Halpin
LONDON (Reuters) - Cuban Roniel Iglesias Sotolongo opted for relentless attacking while Japan's Ryota Murata went with shrewd inside fighting, but both proved effective as they ended their country's long waits for boxing gold on Saturday.
Sotolongo was the standout fighter on the first night of 10 men's finals at the London Games as he used his fearsome left uppercut to wear down the impressive Ukrainian Denys Berinchyk 22-15 and win the light-welterweight title, Cuba's first boxing gold for eight years [ID:nL6E8JB2C].
Although the wait was four decades less than Japan's, which ended with Murata's middleweight success, the great boxing nation of Cuba are not used to losing in the ring.
Having won at least four boxing golds at each Games from the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Cuba left Beijing in 2008 without one for the first time in 20 years.
Sotolongo's success, though, gave the small central American country their 70th Olympic gold, 33 of which have come in the ring, and more could be on the way with Robeisy Ramirez Carrazana heavy favorite to take the men's flyweight title on Sunday.
"Now I feel a complete man. I always thought I was the owner of this medal. I think my family and everyone in my country will be partying," Sotolongo told reporters.
"I feel proud to have the gold medal. I've prepared well and worked hard and I feel I deserve the medal. I would also like to say to the children that this can show that anyone can achieve their dream."
While Cuba aim for a par score of two golds in London, Japan will be thrilled to have clinched their second in 48 years after Murata fought a smart fight to edge the impressive Brazilian Esquiva Falcao Florentino 14-13.
The Brazilian was trying to land his country's first boxing gold and aimed numerous punches at the defensive-minded Murata, who kept a high guard and absorbed most of the punishment on his gloves before returning considered scoring shots [ID:nL4E8JB0GT].
"I'm proud. I can't believe what I've done. Thank you to God and my family," Murata, who works at Toyo University.
"I practiced so many years for this and it all depended on winning gold. I never thought it would feel so heavy."
SUCCESS FOR HOSTS
Unlike Japan, Briton are used to boxing medals but Luke Campbell's 14-11 bantamweight victory over Ireland's John Joe Nevin was the hosts first in the division since 1908.
The emotional Campbell was quicker to the punch and countered strongly to match the gold of his team mate Nicola Adams in the women's flyweight on Thursday, in front of some loud and passionate support at the ExCel Arena.
"The crowd were very inspirational, 10,000 people shouting 'Campbell.' You can't describe the feeling. It's once-in-a-lifetime to be part of the Olympics and represent Britain," the bantamweight champion said.
China's Zou Shiming continued his monopoly of the light-flyweight division by becoming the first man to retain the Olympic title.
The much decorated three-times world amateur champion won China's first Olympic boxing medal, a bronze, eight years ago and its first gold in front of home fans at the Beijing Games, but his dominance is not what it once was.
Zou was clocked several times in the final by the right hand of Thailand's Kaeo Pongprayoon but prevailed 13-10 in a bout of controversial scoring that brought boos from the crowd [ID:nL6E8JB2CW].
"I feel that I won and I could see that the crowd thought I won. I don't know why I lost," the 32-year-old Thai said.
"I think the points system at the Olympics is wrong or strange, not just my fight but others didn't go the way they should have."
For fearsome heavyweight Oleksandr Usyk, he just can't wait to get home to his daughter in Ukraine and show off his gold medal after he did what she asked and overcame Italy's Clemente Russo 14-11 in the last bout of the night [ID:nL6E8JB2D0].
"I was on Skype before the fight to my daughter Lisa and she said, 'Daddy bring me the gold'. And so Lisa, darling, I am bringing it to you."
(Editing by Nigel Hunt)