By Padraic Halpin
LONDON (Reuters) - Queen fan John Joe Nevin guaranteed Ireland their first Olympic medal of the Games on Sunday by reaching the men's bantamweight semi-finals, meaning he will leave London with at least a bronze.
On a momentous day for boxing when women entered an Olympic ring for the first time, it was the men's bantamweights who got to decide who would be the first fighters to win medals, with Britain, Cuba and Japan also booking their places on the podium.
Nevin said it felt amazing to secure only Ireland's fourth medal since the 2000 Sydney Games but quoting the famous British band whose hits have been used as entrance music at the boxing arena, the Irishman said he would not just settle for bronze.
"I want to go all the way, it's like that song Queen sings, 'I want it all', I want every bit of it. I want to be the best in the world," the 23-year-old, twice world amateur bronze medallist told reporters.
Facing tricky 2008 youth world champion Oscar Valdez Fierro from Mexico, Nevin used his longer reach and elusive footwork to record a 19-13 win despite taking a standing count in the final round for what he described as a "cracking shot" to the ribs.
Ireland won two silvers and a bronze at the Games four years ago, all in boxing, and Nevin was relieved to know he would be stepping out of the plane at Dublin airport next week from the front exit, a route traditionally saved for medal winners.
"I got off the back of the plane (after the Beijing Games) and have hung on for four long years when some lads wanted me to go professional. I said I won't get off the back of the plane this time," said Nevin who was close to tears afterwards in the ring and dedicated the medal to his cousin who recently died.
"Hopefully I can turn it into a different colour now.
To do so, he will have to beat world amateur champion Lazaro Alvarez Estrada on Friday after the Cuban denied Brazil a first guaranteed Olympic boxing medal since 1968 in an impressive 16-11 victory over Robenilson Vieira de Jesus.
Following a sluggish start which left the fighters tied on points after the first round, Estrada took control of the bout and punished the Brazilian's sloppy defence.
ITALIAN'S TACTIC BOOED
In Friday's other semi-final, Britain's Luke Campbell will take on Japan's Satoshi Shimizu with the Japanese fighter depriving Algeria of a first medal at the Games.
Shimizu trailed Algeria's Mohamed Amine Ouadahi by one point going into the final round but won the bout by two - the number of points Ouadahi gave away for receiving a warning - and the sobbing soldier was inconsolable afterwards.
Campbell secured Britain's first boxing medal of the Games, needing a strong final round to overturn a one point deficit against Bulgaria's Detelin Dalakliev and like Nevin, the world amateur silver medallist was not celebrating just yet.
"Fantastic, I worked all my life for this. But this is just the start - I'm here for gold," Campbell said.
In the heavyweights, world championship finalists Oleksandr Usyk of Ukraine and Azerbaijan's Teymur Mammadov moved into the last four, along with Beijing silver medallist Clemente Russo of Italy and Bulgaria's Tervel Pulev, who secured his country's first medal in the process.
Russo was booed by the crowd as he made his bout against Cuba's Jose Larduet Gomez look more like a judo contest by constantly holding his opponent throughout the final round.
Gomez reluctantly shook the Italians hand afterwards and had his arm raised on his way out of the arena by another unhappy beaten quarter-finalist, Siarhei Karneyeu of Belarus, who earlier wept inside the ring before saluting the cheering crowd.
"I'll talk to you when they change the result," Karneyeu told reporters.
(Additional reporting by Patrick Johnston)