Vijender could not be the alchemist and turn his bronze into gold but on Friday’s semifinal defeat could not deny him the honour of being India’s first Olympic medal winning boxer.
Cuban Emilio Correa Bayeaux simply outsmarted the Indian 8-5 to win the 75kg category semifinal in a comprehensive manner and the outcome meant Vijender had to be content with the bronze, which he was already assured of.
The Cuban negated Vijender’s height and reach advantages by playing from a distance. He simply did not allow Vijender land a single blow in the first, third and fourth rounds.
Even two penalty points in the final round could not make any difference for the Cuban had tilted the game in his favour a long away.
Surprisingly, barring the second round, Vijender held himself back throughout the bout and mostly sprayed his punches.
Emilio, son of 1972 Munich Games gold medallist Emilio Correa Vaillant, was precise with his blows. He did not resort to wild arm swinging or uppercuts but relied mostly on straight punches, which paid him rich dividends.
Clearly the faster of the two, Emilio led 3-0 early in the second round and though a desperate Vijender managed to reduce the gap to 4-3 by the end of the round, the Cuban proved his superiority again in the lop-sided third round that virtually sealed the fate of the bout.
“Once he went 3-0 ahead, a comeback was always difficult. I tried my best and reduced the gap in the second round but could not really pull it off,” a dejected Vijender said after the bout.
“I’m very upset and want to say sorry to all for I could not win the bout. But I promise to come back in 2012 Olympics and beat this guy and win gold,” Vijender added.
“I had prepared well for his right punches but his left proved equally strong and I often had no answer to that,” Vijender said of his opponent, whose tactical superiority was evident as he hit the Indian before backpedaling fast.
Vijender could not score any point in the first and third rounds and even in the final phase, he got two penalty points after the Cuban had pushed him.
The Haryana lad was still happy to have won India’s first boxing medal and said, “I believe, boxing will see better days in India. We made good progress in the sport and it showed here.”
Coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu was not too unhappy either.
“I’m happy that at least we finished with an Olympic medal, it was a breakthrough for us. For the first time, three Indian boxers reached the quarterfinals. We have shown what we are capable of and the whole world is now watching us,” Sandhu added.