Reality almost caught up with Indian boxers, as four finals handed out four defeats to the country’s boxers, and yielded four silvers pointing at great gumption but not great power.
Overpowered in all four outings, by opponents stronger than them, though not necessarily as skilled, India had cold water thrown at their faces after what has been a glorious run at Glasgow making 4 finals. In the end, they took home 5 medals, including Priti Rani’s bronze on Friday.
India’s mascot Vijender Singh was pummelled by Antony Fowler in the first two rounds — brute force – and though he pulled some back in the 3-0 loss with two judges even scoring him 10-9 in the last, it was too late to matter. One hammering pushed him to kneeling and the ref administered a standing count, which set the tone for the rest of the match.
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For Mandeep Jangra, two standing counts each in Round 1 and 2, against Scott Fitzgerald of England, were one too many even as he had the Englishman on the floor for a knockdown of his own. But it was a unanimous decision, as he couldn’t match his heftier opponent’s power.
“I should have played aggressive and open guard from the first round itself. I was over-cautious and that didn’t suit me. In the third I played my style, but it was late,” he regretted, winning a lot of hearts for coming back the way he did, blazing in attack. But the silver was never in doubt.
The gold medals were shared by England 5, Scotland 2, Northern Ireland 2 on the night that India were forced to shrug their shoulders and hope that this was a good start in the post-no-headgear era, though they have much to learn.
A silver lining
You go looking for silver linings to a silver medal after expecting nothing, there can be many. And for Devendro Singh, it was that he wasn’t outplayed like he was at London. In fact his coaches seemed to be pretty happy with his outing against Paddy Barnes, the Irishman who had outwitted him at London, and who merely outlasted him at Glasgow.
In the men’s light-flyweight (46-49 kg) final, shifted to the Hydro Arena as the numbers of spectators swelled up, Devendro lost a unanimous decision, but had his game-plan right for all intents and purposes. Straight punch-uppercut-straight-hook was a combination he needed to rely on and staying away from his opponent, he dug in a few to emerge an impressive second-best in the furiously paced fight.
A cut on his brow that was masked, and up against an experienced opponent who’s handed him drubbing worse than this one, Devendro could not stop the Irishman from dominating, and didn’t really impress the judges enough to convince them he had the upper hand. But mistakes from London were not repeated, and he can fancy his chances the next time.
“His speed was tremendous,” said Devendro, himself known for his busy punching rolled fists, “I was better than at London, and not as clueless. But I couldn’t match his combinations. The punches would come before mine reached him,” he simply said, insisting that he’ll learn a few more tricks and force some doubt in the judges’ minds.
Barnes would bob and weave and keep his hands on the ready, running around the whole time, and mostly looked like outplaying the Indian. However, when Devendro found his openings — very few — he marked a few bruises on Barnes. “He’s not easy at all,” the northern Irishman said, “I had to work hard.”
For Devendro’s fellow Manipuri Sarita Devi, though, Australian Shelley Watts was too much to handle. My legs didn’t support me today, and I couldn’t move well. I couldn’t recover too well after yesterday, and it made my reactions slower,” she said.
Lead-footed, she was outclassed by Watts, who pushed her into retreating at every chance, and twice had her down on one knee, as Sarita tapered off at the end of each round.
Watts’s left hook was particularly destructive, and energy-sapping, as she both hit and hurt Sarita’s reserves, and her stiffened feet cracked under the onslaught. “I’ve made a comeback in four months, it takes a big heart to leave a child behind and train. But the gold medal target has not been achieved, I’ll look forward to the Asian Games, and improve on both my strength and stamina, as well as defense against boxers better than me,” she said.