Misery continues to find the Kazakhstan Olympic boxing team in Tokyo. Bekzad Nurdauletov entered Tokyo as the number-one seed at light heavyweight, but is instead shown the door following a split decision defeat to Imam Khataev (ROC) in a sensational Round of 16 battle Wednesday afternoon at Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo.
Khataev prevailed by scores of 30-27, 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28, while Nurdauletov—who fought back tears as the decision was revealed—managed a 29-28 on just one scorecard.
Khataev stormed into the second round following a stoppage win over Morocco's Mohammed Assaghir on Sunday. He carried that energy into this bout, overcoming a significant height and reach disparity to force a slugfest.
Both fighters were forced to overcome cuts, with Nurdauletov getting the worst of it as blood from the top of his forehead trickled into his left eye in the final minute of the fight. Khataev suffered a cut on his left side scalp following a clash of heads, though remained unfazed and focused on preserving the upset.
Kazakhstan has now lost four straight bouts, including featherweight Serik Termizhanov who was eliminated from featherweight competition by USA's Duke Ragan earlier in the day.
Khataev will next face Gazimagomed Jalidov (Spain), who prevailed by split decision over Paulo Aokuso (Australia). Scores of 30-27 and 29-28 for Aokuso were overruled by a trio of 29-28 cards turned in for Jalidov, who rallied in round three to secure the win. Khataev and Jalidov will meet in Friday's quarterfinal round, with the winner guaranteed at least bronze.
Keno Machado continues the good fortunes for Brazil even post-Rio following his truncated win over Chen Daxiang (China). Machado scored an opening round knockdown en route to a technical unanimous decision win when the fight was stopped on cuts in round two.
Machado won every round on all five cards (20-18, 20-18, 20-18, 20-18, 20-17) to advance to the Elite Eight. He will next face charismatic Benjamin 'B£NZO' Whittaker (Great Britain) who outpointed number four seed Abdelrahman Salel Orabi (Egypt).
Scores were 30-26, 30-27, 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 in favor of Whittaker, who bumped off two-time Olympian Jorge Luis Vivas in the opening round of competition. With his win over Orabi, the light heavyweight bracket is now without two of its top four seeds.
Andy Cruz (Cuba) aims to pick up a second Gold medal in as many weight divisions. He is off to a good start, pitching a shutout over Algeria's Mohammed Houmri.
All fives judges scored the contest (30-26, 30-26, 30-26, 30-27, 30-25) in favor of Cruz, who captured Olympic Gold as a middleweight in 2016 Rio. He enters Tokyo as the number-three seed at light heavyweight and as the defending World Amateur champion.
Cruz will now face Rogelio Romero (Mexico), the full time Mexico Navy athlete who sunk the Olympic dreams of Luka Plantic (Croatia).
Romero advances to the quarterfinals following a split decision win in what felt like a mild upset. All five judges scored the bout 29-28, one for Plantic and the other four in favor Romero after having won the third and final round on those cards.
Number two seed Alfonso Dominguez (Azerbaijan) and Bayram Malkan (Turkey) will meet in the quarterfinals after posting the final two wins of Wednesday afternoon preliminary bouts at light heavyweight
Malkam battered Shakul Samed (Ghana) into submission, winning the first round on all but one card before forcing the stoppage at 1:23 of round two.
Dominguez—a Cuban defector now based out of Azerbaijan—sent home Dilshodbek Ruzmetov (Uzbekistan) via split decision. Ruzmetov won 29-28 on one scorecard, overruled by scores of 29-28 and three 30-27 cards in favor of Dominguez, who won silver at the 2019 World Amateur championships.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox