Star boxer Vijender Singh’s dream to become India’s first individual athlete with back-to-back Olympic medals came crashing down as he lost his quarterfinal bout against old foe Abbos Atoev of Uzbekistan at the ExCel Arena here.
The 26-year-old Beijing Olympics bronze-medallist fought gallantly last night but was found wanting against his strong rival, whom he had blanked 7-0 in the Asian Games final in 2010.
Atoev, a former world champion in the 81kg division, got his revenge on the biggest stage as he prevailed 17-13 in the nerve-wracking contest.
After MC Mary Kom romped into the semifinals of the women’s 51kg category earlier in the day, the spotlight was on Vijender to assure India of at least another bronze medal but that did not materialise as he bowed out of the competitions much to the dismay of millions of Indian supporters.
The ExCel arena was packed with flag-waving Indian spectators, who lustily cheered Vijender the moment he stepped into the ring and the decibel level increased after every bout.
Vijender, a bronze medal winner in the Beijing Olympic Games four years ago, just could not raise the tempo when it mattered the most as his Uzbek rival intelligently fended off his punches and launched counter—attacks.
The Indian, who had carved out a hard-fought 16-15 victory over Terrell Gausha of the USA in the quarterfinals on August 2, began cautiously and was quite content in gauging the strategy of his opponent in the first round which ended 3-3.
Spurred on by the vociferous crowd, Vijender began the second round aggressively leaving the Uzbek dazed. But Atoev showed tremendous character to regain his composure and peg the Indian back with his deadly left punches.
Atoev turned the table in his favour in the second round which he won 7—5.
In a desperate bid to make amends in the third and final round, Vijender went all out on the attack.
But in the process, he allowed his opponent to consolidate his position as he left his guard open and though he landed a few punches, it was not enough to give him a clear lead.
As a result, the third round ended with 7-5 scoreline in favour of the Uzbek.
Vijender, a former world number one, adapted a more attacking strategy in the third and final round but the Uzbekistan boxer was equal to the task as he fended off the punches deftly and counter-attacked fiercely.
As the two boxers waited for the result, the Indian crowd went silent as the Uzbek was declared the winner.
Atoev will now take on second seed Ryota Murata of Japan in the semifinals to be held on August 10. Murata defeated Adem Klucci of Turkey 17—13 in the quarterfinals.