There was no rhyme or rhythm, no talk of bees or butterflies, only the savage sting of defeat as British flyweight Muhammad Ali lost on his Olympic debut on Monday.
With cheers of ‘Ali, Ali’ echoing around the arena from a home crowd enjoying the chance to hail his late heavyweight world champion namesake, Ali was outmanoeuvred 3-0 by Venezuelan southpaw Yoel Segundo Finol.
Questions about the name are well worn by now – his father is a boxing-mad taxi driver – and reporters were warned by a team official not to land any more as a distraught Ali struggled to come to terms with what had happened.
The last of the heavily-fancied British boxers to fight, the 20-year-old from Bury – home town of 2004 silver medallist Amir Khan Ali had been waiting for his moment.
“I thought I’d been here too long. I was just itching to get in there,” he said, with his rival going through to the quarter-finals and one step away from a medal.
“I just tried too hard and nothing was flowing.
“It’s going to be heartbreaking to see them on the podium and I’m just here. I just feel like it’s the end of the world,” he said. “I was just too anxious.”
Finol, 19, was given several warnings for holding and effectively manhandled Ali around the ring while falling back on his ringcraft to stay out of danger and landing scoring combinations.
“Another clinch, another clinch and the referee wouldn’t say anything,” said the Briton bitterly. “A warning or something at least. He just kept doing it for the full three rounds. I just couldn’t get any rhythm going.
“He was just being clever, holding and hitting and moving and moving.”
The Venezuelan, whose late brother-in-law Edwin Valero was a two times WBA and WBC world champion and committed suicide in prison in 2010 after being arrested for the murder of Finol’s sister, said the tactic had worked.
“He is a young boxer with great talent and also a great name,” he said of Ali.
The great Muhammad Ali, who died this year, won the Olympic light-heavyweight title in 1960 as Cassius Clay.
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