Dominant first and second rounds by Santa Maria native Carlos Balderas led him to victory Tuesday against Japan’s Daisuke Narimatsu in a three-round, round-of-16 match to advance to the quarterfinals in the Olympic men’s lightweight division.
Fighting at 132 pounds, Balderas, 20, landed multiple body-shot and uppercut combinations to Narimatsu’s face en route to a unanimous decision. The judges’ scores were 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
“I knew I needed to go to the body early so it’d slow him down,” Balderas said, “and that’s what I did. I noticed he was very aggressive, and he liked to keep coming forward.”
Balderas will next take on top-seeded Lazaro Alvarez of Cuba at 8:30 a.m. Friday. Alvarez won the bronze in the 2012 London Games as a bantamweight and has since moved up a weight class. Team USA has not won a medal in the lightweight division since the 1996 Atlanta Games.
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Balderas spent the early part of the first round defending a barrage of punches from Narimatsu but landed a strong upper-cut and right-jab combination halfway through the round. A right hook in the last minute to Narimatsu’s face and another right jab earned Balderas the opening round from all three judges.
Balderas fell down about halfway through the first round, later telling reporters he thought Narimatsu had head-butted him.
“I don’t know if he did that on purpose or not, but I felt my forehead getting hot, and I thought I had got cut,” Balderas said.
Balderas dominated the second round, landing separate left hooks to Narimatsu’s body in the opening minute and connecting on right and left upper cuts to his Japanese opponent’s face shortly after. A right uppercut to the body in the final minute gave Balderas the nod from all three judges.
With the match in hand, Balderas blocked a flurry of shots to his head in the third round, taking only a left hook to his body and connecting on the same punch seconds later. A right cross to Narimatsu’s face halfway through the final round helped win it for Balderas from two out of the three judges.
“I knew it was going to be a difficult fight, but it was a lot harder and more powerful than I thought because (Narimatsu) kept eating everything,” Balderas said. “He was in great, great shape. I gave him a lot of body shots, and he was giving them back as well.”
Speaking through an interpreter, Narimatsu said he was pleased with his performance but that Balderas’ upper cut and repeated body shots were too much to overcome.
“Really those were the big issues for me,” Narimatsu said. “He was very effective in landing those punches at the right time.”
Balderas’ win gave United States boxers a 4-0 start in the Rio Olympics. Balderas also defeated Kazakhstan’s Berik Abdrakhmanov by unanimous decision in a first-round bout Saturday, while light flyweight Nico Hernandez, from Wichita, Kansas, has also won his first two bouts.
The third U.S. boxer, middleweight Charles Conwell of Cleveland, lost his first middleweight bout later Tuesday to India’s Vikas Krishan Yadav.