Vijender stands tall in defeat, settles for bronze (Second Lead)

August 22nd, 2008 - 5:15 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 22 (IANS) A defeat always brings along a sense of disappointment, but Vijender Singh had no reason to feel so despite losing to Cuban Emilio Correa Bayeaux Jr. in the Middleweight (75 kg) semi-finals Friday.”Sorry, sir, I lost the fight. I thought I could win, but maybe I made a mistake by being defensive at the start and it cost me,” said a dejected Vijender who went down 5-8 to Emilio.

The loss notwithstanding Vijender is the first Indian boxer to land an Olympic medal and will return home with a bronze.

At the other end, Emilio Correa Jr., buoyed by his 1972 Olympic champion father, Emilio Correa Bayeaux Sr., admitted that they had planned a slightly altered strategy for the Indian.

The Cuban said, “I fought him once before in Bulgaria and I won. But this time I had to change my strategy because he already knows me. I had to surprise him.”

“We have a lot of experience in fights, in training, in discipline,” he added.

The Indian team’s coach, Gurbax Singh Sandhu, said, “I don’t think we should feel sad. Yes, we expected Vijender to win, because he ís such a good fighter and it was a close contest. But still to have five boxers here and three reaching the quarter finals, is 60 per cent success. And to have one in semi-finals with a medal, it is 20 per cent. I think we should celebrate and hope boxing takes on from here.”

Adding a little more to his bout’s action, Vijender said, “I think our strategy failed a little in the beginning, as I was somewhat defensive and got behind by two points because he attacked. Maybe that was my mistake.”

Still, Vijender can hold his head high as he lost an evenly matched bout 5-8. In the end, it may have been the crucial third round, where the Cuban after launching a flurry of punches, picked two quick points in the last eight seconds, including one which beat the bell by a micro-second.

In terms of rounds, both Vijender and Emilio won two each, but it was the crucial third round that tilted the scales in the Cuban’s favour, who is now just one fight away from emulating his father who won the welterweight Olympic gold in 1972 alongside heavyweight legend Teofilo Stevenson.

“He got the lead in the first round and then got a couple of lucky points in third and that cost me a lot,” said the Bhiwani boxer, whose bronze medal could well launch a boxing revolution in India.

Emilio Correa Jr. said he spoke to his father last night and also sent him a message. He gave me some tips and advise through an interpreter, he said.

“I am just a step away from emulating his feat and that is my goal right now,” he said.

The fight admittedly was slow, but in such an evenly-matched contest, where the height and reach was almost similar - where Emilio was an inch shorter, his reach was a couple of inches more - it was natural for both the fighters to first size each other up before launching an attack.

“It was a slow start,” said Vijender. “But he got those two points in the first round to set up a lead.”

Emilio Correa consistently tried a one-two, first opening with either a left or right and then in a flash sneaking in another jab to score.

In the second round, it was the Cuban who first went up 3-0, before Vijender got his first point, only to see Emilio Correa pick another to make it 4-1.

Undaunted, Vijender landed two points in the last 40-odd seconds to win the round 3-2 but still trail by a point at 3-4.

The third round proved crucial. After parrying the Indian’s jabs and attempted upper cuts, Emilio got the first point of the round at the half-minute mark to make it 5-3. The score stayed there as both relied on their defence to keep each other out. But into the last eight seconds, the Cuban let loose a flurry of punches, which opened up Vijender’s defence for a small period. Emilio Correa scored once to make it 6-3 and then just before the bell sounded, he sneaked one more to make it 7-3, winning the round 3-0.

With a four-point cushion at the start of the final round, it was natural for the Cuban to play safe and hold his lead. Despite that he added one more point in the first minute to make it 8-3.

But his flat punching and hitting with the palm earned him the ire of the referee who penalised him for foul punching and that gave the Indian a two-pointer to reduce the gap to 5-8. But in the remaining 30 seconds, Vijender was unable to land any more points as the Cuban closed the defence and did not allow any of Vijender’s punches to land on target.

As the bout ended, the Cuban was ecstatic to make it to his first big final, and Vijender was rather upset, which showed even when he met the media a few minutes later.

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