Moldovan outwits Akhil to the medal (Second Lead)

August 18th, 2008 - 9:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 18 (IANS) Akhil Kumar was brave even in defeat, as he went down 3-10 in a one-sided bantamweight (54kg) quarter final bout against Moldovan Gojan Vaeceslav, enduring the pain of bowing out when the Olympic medal was within his reach.Vaeceslav cleverly picked up points, while keeping a tight guard which just did not allow the Indian to land any points-gathering punches.

Veaceslav may not be the most attractive boxer, but he was crafty indeed. His nimble footwork and excellent guard forced Akhil to do all the running around, and the Indian was frustrated at not being able to find an opening for his punches. And then the Moldovan quickly counter-attacked as the Indian dropped his guard going for the kill.

Akhil’s defeat reduced India’s challenge to just two boxers, Jitender Kumar and Vijender Kumar, both of whom have their quarter-finals Wednesday.

“I am disappointed at not winning, but if I can celebrate a win, I must have the heart to take defeat, too,” said Akhil bravely. “We did watch the recording of his previous fight. We did have a plan, but it was just not my day. I could not land any points.”

“He had run up a good lead and if I was in his place, I would have done the same and protected the lead,” he added. “Boxing is a game of two rounds and once you are ahead the other boxer has to fight hard to come back.”

Veaceslav on the other hand speaking through his coach, said, “I was confident and did not see his (Akhil’s) previous fight.”

His coach added, “He (Veaceslav) is very strong and he can win the gold medal. He has been training hard and should do well.”

Indian coach, Gurbax Singh Sandhu, said, “How can I be happy. He (Akhil) beat a World champion and lost to a unheralded boxer.”

Boxing thrives on bravado and there was enough of that from Akhil before the fight. He had a swagger of a champion, but his rival, Veaceslav had outthought and outboxed him.

Also, it was apparent by the third round, that the Moldovan had succeeded in frustrating the Indian, who was now working himself up and throwing caution to the wind and it resulted in giving him away too many cheap points.

The first minute did not produce any points, as both tried to size up the other and then Moldovan opened the account, while Akhil managed to get his first point with under half a minute left in the first round.

Then into the second round, it was Akhil who went ahead with a neat upper cut, but that did not rattle Veaceslav, who restored parity with just a second left in the second round.

It was the third round, which made all the difference. Veaceslav kept picking points with regularity. He logged three within 50 seconds and thereon, Akhil was merely trying to catch up.

Veaceslav ended the round with another point to open up a near unassailable 6-2 advantage.

Into the final round, Akhil’s only hope was to land a heavy knock-out blow, which he did try for but the Moldovan was too smart not to get hit. He kept dancing and bobbing as Akhil went for him. Akhil went for the jugular, exposing himself to free punching by Moldovan because of his open stance.

In retrospect, the 27-year-old Akhil might have looked a bit overconfident, he himself admitted: “You never underestimate an opponent, much like you never get overawed by his reputation.”

“A number of great sportsmen have bitten the dust just because they took it for granted. The Russian world champion (Sergey Vodopyanov) made the same mistake and underestimated me. See who reached the quarter-finals.”

Meeting the media after the fight, Akhil insisted that he was not going to cry over the defeat but prepare for the 2010 Commonwealth Games and the 2012 Olympics. “Before the hockey team failed to qualify, no one was even tuned to the Olympics,” he said. “And we must now prepare from now on.”

Veaceslav next opponent is Mongolian Badar-Uugan Enkhbat, who beat Botswana’s Khumiso Ikgopoleng 15-2 in another lop-sided quarterfinal. In the other semi-final, Cuba’s main contender Yankiel Leon Alarcon will meet Bruno Julie of Mauritius. Alarcon beat 2004 Olympic silver medallist Worapoj Petchkoom of Thailand 10-2 and Julie beat Venezuelan Hector Rangel Manzanilla 13-9.

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