Ainsley Walters, Sunday Gleaner Writer
BENIDORM, Spain:MICROWEIGHT Ackeem Lawrence yesterday raised Jamaica's hopes ahead of departure for North Cyprus, reaching the quarter-finals of the International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF) World Championships in Benidorm, Spain.
Lawrence was the only Jamaican to advance to the fourth round - though getting a first-round bye.
He lost to one of the division's favourites, Russian six-footer Andrey Li.
The Jamaican first fought American Titus Delaroyjue, getting past the short, but tricky and high-kicking US fighter 3-1.
Lawrence's confidence skyrocketed after that and he wiped out Argentina's Gadea Martin 4-0 in his next bout, evoking cheers from his teammates at ringside.
That victory paired Lawrence with the beanpole Russian, Li, who had got past a Ukranian to face Jamaica.
questionable foul calls
However, two questionable foul calls against Lawrence, who led early, swung the pendulum in Li's favour, which the Russian held to the end.
Coach Claude Chin said Lawrence fought admirably in a division which has been made tougher with new ITF weight regulations.
Male microweights for previous world tournaments fought at 53.5 kilos and under. The division was bumped up to 57.0 kilos in Benidorm, attracting more competitors, most dropping down from lightweight where the likes of Jamaica's Nicholas Dussard fights.
"It has definitely become more competitive because you had some people who were on the borderline, very good lightweights, who were able to make the division," Chin pointed out.
"Therefore, the weight change was beneficial to the Europeans as you can see the people who are advancing, Russia, Poland, the Czech Republic, they all have at least four to five inches to their advantage," the Jamaican coach added.
Lawrence's performance sparked the Jamaicans, some of whom will move on to North Cyprus for the October 29-November 3 International Sport Kickboxing Association's World Championships.
Sheckema Cunningham appears a major doubt for Cyprus with her left leg still heavily bandaged. However, the squad will be bolstered with the arrival of Kevin Brown and Danielle Chang.