New Zealand heavyweight boxer David Nyika boxed beautifully to win his opening bout against Moroccan Youness Baalla in a unanimous points decision, but the result took a back seat to controversy over a biting incident.
The Moroccan, clearly frustrated by the elusive Nyika’s defensive skills, grappled the New Zealander in the third round and bit his right ear.
Nyika protested briefly to the referee, then got on with winning the fight. He won every round on every scorecard for a shutout 30-27 score.
Later the Hamilton attempted none too fazed by the incident, saying: “Luckily he didn’t get a mouthful of me. He had his mouthguard on and I was a bit sweaty.”
The incident immediately brought back recollections of Mike Tyson’s famous fight with Evander Holyfield when Tyson, frustrated that the fight was slipping away, had two bites at Holyfield and was eventually disqualified.
Nyika said he had been bitten once before, on the chest during the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. “But this is the Olympics man – get your s… together.”
He said he was surprised that female referee, Neika Thampu of Sri Lanka, appeared not to see the bite. “She was the closest of anyone.”
Nyika said he gave the Moroccan “a little bit of cheek” afterwards and that the Moroccan seemed a bit hesitant about making eye contact. Baala was later disqualified for "unsportsmanlike conduct".
The biting incident aside, Nyika was extremely happy with his effort. He comes into the tournament with good credentials, having won gold medals at the 2014 and 2018 Commonwealth Games. A gold medal in Tokyo may well be the springboard to a successful professional career.
“I was able to do everything I’d hoped to, and to follow the plan that we laid out. It was all up to par.”
The New Zealander seems confident about his prospects. “I have every intention of being on the top of the podium. I know I have the ability.”