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September 27, 2000
Singh loses quarters boutThe Rediff Team
After four rounds of stop-start action in the quarterfinal of the 81 kg (light heavyweight) category in men's boxing, the two boxers remained dead even on points. Even, two, on the computer scoring. It went to the jury countback -- and when the verdict was in, Andri Fedtchouk of the Ukraine had won, leaving a tearful Gurcharan Singh of India to sink to the carpet in despair.
Fair result, really -- in terms of points, nothing to separate the two; the Ukrainian winning on the basis of being the more proactive of the two fighters. And that was ironic -- Singh, whose forte is flat out aggression from the get-go, unaccountably went in to the ring in a cautious frame of mind today, and paid for it.
The way he boxed, in complete contrast to his natural style, made one wonder if he was the beneficiary of some bad ringside advice. On the lines of 'Take it easy, don't rush it, don't give the other guy too many chances'. In following that advice -- at least, that was what Singh did today, took it easy, didn't rush -- Singh moved away from his own natural game, which is to go in with both fists swinging and tot up points on the board like he was playing pinball.
The first round was, in a word, absurd with neither boxer showing any inclination to approach the other -- the sole point the Ukrainian put on the board, to none by the Indian, coming when the two boxers broke after a clinch and Fedtchouk caught Singh a jab to the jaw as they were moving apart.
The second round saw Singh come out swinging, raising visions of a repeat of the way he fought in the second round. Two quick points scored inside the first 15 seconds, though, saw the Indian go unaccountably back on the defensive. Again, it made you wonder whether he had been told to put points on the board and then defend. The ploy didn't work -- as Singh backpedalled, Fedtchouk was emboldened to attack more, and he rapidly pulled it back, then went into the lead with a nice combination before Singh, in the last second of the round, scored with a fluid left jab to take the round 4-3, and level the scores 4-4 overall.
The third round was another standoff -- both boxers spent the first minute circling each other cautiously, throwing the occasional jab. Then they closed, exchanged a rapid flurry of punches, scoring three apiece before separating to resume their waltz. 3-3 in the round, 7-7 overall.
The fourth round started with a bang, again the Indian closing, but finding himself quickly down 2-0 thanks to a neat combination from the Ukranian. Singh fought back, levelling the scores, then went one up to lead 3-2. But from there on, it was catch up all the way as the Ukranian abandoned his defensive style, attacked more broadly. In the last 30 seconds, points were scored more rapidly than in any other point in the bout -- 3-3 with the Ukranian scoring with an uppercut, 4-3 to the Ukranian with a neat jab, 4-4 as Singh scored with a roundhouse, 5-4 Singh with an uppercut and 5-5 the Ukranian, scoring with a jab in the last second of the bout.
That levelled the overal score on 12-12, the five judges -- from Algeria, Poland, USA, Japan and the Dominican Republic called it even-stevens, the decision went to the countback and, thanks to the fact that more often than not it was the Ukranian in the lead, the scoreline read 60-42 against the Indian.
It was a close bout -- but then, in a competition of this level, no one remembers the guy who lost out. It was unfortunate, really -- judged by the Ukranian's style, Singh fighting his normal style would have been a convincing winner.
What caused the Indian boxer to abandon aggression in favour of caution, and to adopt an unfamiliar, defense-oriented style is a question that merits the asking. Tragically, had the Indian won this bout and gone into the semis, he was assured of a medal, given that all four semifinalists automatically qualify for bronze at the minimum.
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