Paea Wolfgramm ignored a broken wrist, a broken nose and health warnings from his coaches to fulfill his Olympic dream and win a silver medal for Tonga.
The super-heavyweight was determined to fight in the final against Ukraine’s Vladimir Klichko whatever the cost. His South Pacific homeland wanted its first medal won in battle, not after a walkover.
“I was willing for it to break into 2,000 pieces if necessary,” Wolfgramm said of his right wrist, which was broken during his semifinal victory over Nigerian Duncan Dokiwari.
“I wanted to fight as best I could and it would take a little more than a broken wrist to stop me fighting in an Olympic final. I feel a lot of pain now but I forgot about it in the ring.”
Wolfgramm looked ill at ease entering the ring and was a shadow of the man who caused a sensation in the quarterfinal by beating Cuba’s Alexis Rubalcaba.
He led, 3-2, after two rounds, but Klichko piled on the pressure in the final round, using his longer reach and greater speed to win, 7-3, against an opponent exhausted by his earlier Olympic efforts.
“He outfought me and I don’t want to take any credit away from him,” Wolfgramm said. “But if I had known I was ahead after two rounds I would have run faster than Muhammad Ali.”
As before the Cuban fight, the King of Tonga decreed a day of fasting and prayer at home to help his fighter. He also called Wolfgramm before the final to wish him luck.
Wolfgramm, who carries a lot of bulk around his waist, was asked if he had ever fasted for another Tongan. “Do I look like I’ve fasted a lot of times?” he replied.
Religion plays a large part in Tongan life and Wolfgramm said he had broken the rules by fighting on a Sunday. “I’ll pray for forgiveness, but I’m sure he’ll forgive me.
“I’m proud to have been chosen by whatever powers there may be and I thank the good Lord for that. It’s been a marvelous experience and I’m happy, ecstatic and proud.”
Wolfgramm, a clerk in New Zealand, will now take a few months off before deciding what to do next with his life. But his boxing career may be over.
“I think this is it,” he said. “I’m happy I’ve made my dream possible and I thank God for delivering my prayers.
“There’s a purity about boxing I like. It’s just you and the other guy. It’s a barbarian sport, played by men.”
The best boxer of the tournament was officially Kazakhstan’s Vasilii Jirov, who won his country’s first boxing gold in the light-heavyweight division and the Val Barker trophy for the top fighter. He defeated Korean Lee Seung-Bae.
Thai featherweight Somluck Kamsing, whose light-flyweight brother Somrot lost in the quarterfinals, said after his victory he would give his medal to the country’s king, who this year marks the 50th golden jubilee of his coronation. He beat Bulgarian world champion Serafim Todorov, 8-5.
Hector Vinent became the third Cuban to retain his title. The light-welterweight outpointed Germany’s Oktay Urkal, 20-13, to join middleweight Ariel Hernandez and heavyweight Felix Savon in winning their second titles in a row.
Flyweight Maikro Romero made a remarkable third-round comeback for Cuba’s first gold of the day. He defeated Kazakhstan’s Bulat Dzumadilov, 12-11, landing the winning blow 35 seconds from the end.
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Medalists / Boxing
GOLD: Maikro Romero, Cuba
SILVER: Bulat Dzumadilov, Kazakstan
BRONZE: Albert Pakeev, Russia
GOLD: Somluck Kamsing, Thailand
SILVER: Serafim Todorov, Bulgaria
BRONZE: Pablo Chacon, Argentina
BRONZE: Floyd Mayweather, United States
GOLD: Hector Vinent, Cuba
SILVER: Oktay Urkal, Germany
BRONZE: Bolat Niyazymbetov, Kazakstan
BRONZE: Fethi Missaoui, Tunisia
GOLD: David Reid, Philadelphia
SILVER: Alfredo Duvergel, Cuba
BRONZE: Karim Tulaganov, Uzbekistan
BRONZE: Ermakhan Ibraimov, Kazakstan
GOLD: Vassili Jirov, Kazakstan
SILVER: Lee Seung-Bae, South Korea
BRONZE: Antonio Tarver, United States
BRONZE: Thomas Ulrich, Germany
GOLD: Vladimir Klichko, Ukraine
SILVER: Paea Wolfgramm, Tonga
BRONZE: Alexei Lezin, Russia
BRONZE: Duncan Dokiwari, Nigeria