Boxer Michael Conlan's slap on the head was impetus for his Olympic win
MICHAEL Conlan said a slap on the head from coach Billy Walsh drove him on to beat Frenchman Nordine Oubaali.
The 20-year-old Belfast man struggled to assert himself early against his stockier, more powerful foe, but turned up the heat after heading into the final round level to claim a 22-18 victory.
Conlan, who joins team-mates John Joe Nevin and Katie Taylor in their respective semi-finals with Paddy Barnes still to come, said: "My coach told me to put the boot in because I was a bit too quiet. Thank God he gave me a slap on the head and drove me on.
"Words can't describe what I'm feeling but I knew I'd be here on the day. When I watched Andy Lee and Amir Khan in 2004 I told my mother I would be here. Hopefully I can go one better than Khan and go all the way."
The compact Oubaali produced the cleaner work up front in the first round, but Conlan ended the round well to chisel a 5-5 tie. They were level again at the end of the second, Oubaali's intensity keeping him on a par with the more adventurous Irishman.
But Conlan stepped it up in the third, stabbing home a fine left hand as the Frenchman's work lost its snap. A grandstand finish from the Belfast man, in which he landed with both left and right hooks, helped him pull it out in style.
Conlan will face Andrew Selby's conqueror, Robeisy Ramirez Carrazana, in the semi-finals while the second semi will see brilliant Russian world champion Misha Aloian take on Tugstsogt Nyambayar of Mongolia.
Aloian produced a superb performance of amateur boxing skills to see off teenage Puerto Rican Jeyvier Cintron 23-13, while the rugged Mongolian came on strong in the last round to defeat Uzbek Jasurbek Latipov.
There was drama in the men's welterweight division when Frenchman Alexis Vastine was handed a two-point penalty in his bout with Ukraine's world number one Taras Shelestyuk, and was beaten on countback after an 18-18 draw.
Vastine, who was also denied victory in the Beijing semi-final four years ago due to two late warnings, reacted furiously, sitting for some time in the centre of the ring, and the French federation announced an appeal.
Both the French appeal and that of the Canadians after Custio Clayton's countback loss to Great Britain's Fred Evans were allowed to proceed by world governing body AIBA, who were expected to sit late into the night.
American Errol Spence - who won an appeal earlier this week against India's Krishnan Vikas, finally bowed out 16-11 to Russia's Andrey Zamkovoy. It means a US men's boxing team will fail to medal for the first time in Olympic history.