Nyika guaranteed a medal after dominant quarter-final win

Uladzislau Smiahlikau (red) of Team Belarus exchanges punches with David Nyika who won the quarterfinal match. Photo: Getty Images
Uladzislau Smiahlikau (red) of Team Belarus exchanges punches with David Nyika who won the quarterfinal match. Photo: Getty Images
David Nyika is guaranteed to become New Zealand's first Olympic boxing medallist for 29 years after a commanding quarter-final victory. Rest assured, though, Nyika won't be satisfied with bronze.

Nyika, the fourth-seeded Olympic heavyweight, registered his second unanimous victory of the Tokyo Games on Friday. After easing past Youness Baalla in the round of 16 – a bout marred by an attempted bite from the 22-year-old Moroccan - Nyika delivered another dominant display to defeat Belarus' Uladzislau Smiahlikau.

In advancing to the semifinals, Nyika is guaranteed to match revered Kiwi-Samoan heavyweight David Tua, who claimed bronze in Barcelona in 1992 as there is no fight off for bronze.

Nyika will, therefore, collect New Zealand's fourth Olympic boxing medal to follow Tua, Ted Morgan's gold in Amsterdam in 1928 and Kevin Barry's controversial silver in Los Angeles in 1984.

Nyika, the 25-year-old two-time Commonwealth Games champion, fought with supreme authority in his quarter-final to open up a cut above Smiahlikau's left eye on the opening round where he landed several big right hands.

In the second round Nyika continued to press forward, repeatedly landing his straight left jab to break through Smiahlikau's guard. And in the final round Nyika showcased his full range of skill with two classy uppercuts.

At the end of the bout, following the judges' verdict, Nyika let out a passionate cry. In that moment the emotion of failing to qualify for the Rio Games five years ago and the knowledge he will now collect a medal was there for all to see.

Nyika faces a tall order in his semifinal on Tuesday when he will confront Russian Olympic Committee top-seeded southpaw Muslim Gadzhimagomedov after he recorded another unanimous decision to defeat spirited German Ammar Abduljabbar.

Anyone who knows Nyika's character and talent, though, will not question his ability to pull off an upset and progress to the gold medal fight.

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