By Padraic Halpin
LONDON (Reuters) - Oleksandr Usyk won Ukraine's first boxing gold medal of the London Games on Saturday leaving Italy's Clemente Russo with a second successive heavyweight silver medal and fans enjoying another jig of joy.
Ukraine dominated last year's world championships, taking home four gold medals including one for Usyk, as they sought to muscle their way to the top of the amateur game just as the famous Klitschko Brothers had done in the professional ranks.
However, Denys Berinchyk failed in the former Soviet state's first bid for gold, losing to Cuba's Roniel Iglesias Sotolongo two bouts earlier and more pressure was heaped on Usyk when he fell behind after the first round.
"We already had a silver and we didn't need another one," Usyk told reporters. "I showed what I can do, especially considering I was behind in the first round, even though I didn't actually feel any hits from him."
"My coach asked me, 'How strong are the Italian's punches?' and I said, 'I don't know, I haven't felt any'. He said, 'Just go back out there and hit him'."
Usyk, who at 190 centimetres (6 feet 3 inches) enjoyed a nine centimetre height advantage over the Italian, had boxed cautiously in the opening three minutes and paid the price as the awkward Russo caught him with some swiping left hands.
Russo, one of the poster boys of the Olympic boxing governing body's new professional league, may have ridden his luck to reach Saturday's final but he showed far more guile than in previous bouts to chalk up a two-point lead.
However, the big Ukrainian opened up in the second round and showed more of the aggression that saw him thoroughly punish Bulgaria's Tervel Pulev in the semi-finals to peg back Russo's advantage and go into the final round level.
With both fighters out on their feet, Usyk, who like team mate Berinchyk sports one of the oddest haircuts at the Olympics, delivered some decisive big left hooks in the final minute to take the contest 14-11.
The mostly shaved do with a lengthy piece of hair left on top is a traditional Ukrainian number called 'chub', a hairstyle traditionally worn by Kazaki people from the south of Ukraine, who are known as good fighters, Berinchyk explained last week.
It was not the only thing that marked the pair out at the London Games.
Usyk danced his now customary elaborate victory jig - a Ukrainian 'hopak' dance - when the score was announced, adding an extra spin or two while Berinchyk was understandably more restrained when he took to the floor after his defeat.
They will likely be celebrating again on Sunday when team mate and hot lightweight favourite Vasyl Lomachenko fights for his second Olympic gold in a row.
Losing heavyweight semi-finalists Pulev and Teymur Mammadov of Azerbaijan were back in the arena on Saturday to collect their bronze medals as Italian Russo accepted his silver with regret. "I didn't want silver, I wanted gold," he said.