David Nyika stuns crowd to win boxing gold
The majority of the 10,000-strong crowd thought otherwise, but David Nyika knew better.
The teenaged Kiwi boxer won gold at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this morning with a unanimous points decision over Kennedy St Pierre of Mauritius in the men's light heavyweight (81kg) final.
The five judges from Belarus, Hungary, Wales, Canada and Denmark gave Nyika the win much to the disgust of the crowd, as a cacophony of boos rained down.
But while St Pierre may have been the more active, his furious blows rarely found an ever-moving target, with Nyika's stunning reactions defying a stream of attacks.
The 18-year-old from Hamilton was left to collect New Zealand's first Commonwealth boxing gold since 1990, when Michael Kenny won the super heavyweight division in front of a home crowd in Auckland.
"I didn't take too much of a beating there," a grinning, glistening Nyika told reporters soon after the three-round bout.
"The guy's a big, strong dude - he's throwing big punches from a long way away and I'm riding them.
"So it looks a little bit crazy."
The willowy Kiwi constantly swayed out of reach to frustrate his rival and the fans.
"Me swinging my body around, I think I might have put my back out," he joked.
"I'm real happy with the performance, I feel great, just stoked to have made it through five tough fights in just over a week of competing. I think I've lost about three or four kgs in the last week or so."
Adorned in all blue, Nyika looked to stave off his stalking rival in the first round among a charged atmosphere created by around 10,000 fans at the Hydro arena.
St Pierre regularly forced him back onto the ropes, but Nyika's long left arm and rapid reactions kept him mostly out of trouble.
The Mauritian continued to throw a lot of punches in the second round, but just as he looked like tiring and Nyika was getting on top, he tagged the Kiwi who quickly shook it off and celebrated with a wee first pump.
The judges had Nyika marginally ahead entering the third round, and both tired fighters continued to slug it out looking for the crucial edge as time ticked down.
Nyika said the crowd's reaction bothered him a little, even if it didn't show.
"I think the crowd likes to see people's noggins getting rocked," he said.
"But I didn't take a whole lot of damage - I was riding a lot of the shots. It may look like I'm taking big shots but I didn't get hit too much.
Nyika thought he may have been behind after the first round.
"He put on a lot of pressure and I was a bit shocked maybe.
"But in the second and third rounds I just rode all his power - rode it all over the show,"
Nyika was a late inclusion in the New Zealand team for Glasgow - after impressing in tournaments in Europe, he got in by winning his class at the North Island Golden Gloves tournament two months ago.
But the 1.91m fighter instantly looked at home in the ring in Glasgow.
He began his campaign with a split-decision win over South Africa's Luvuyo Sizani and improved on that with a unanimous decision over home nation favourite Scott Forrest.
He then beat India's Sumit Sangwan by the same manner in his quarterfinal before dispatching Northern Ireland's Sean McGlinchy in a dominant display over the last two rounds.
Nyika's fellow Kiwi pugilist David Light was next up and won silver after losing a split decision in the men's heavyweight final against Canada's Samir El-Mais on the last night of the boxing programme in Glasgow.
The first three bouts on the night's card were all won by English fighters.