Debutant Akash Kumar (54kg) signed off with a bronze medal in the AIBA men's World Boxing Championships after losing to Kazakhstan teenager Makhmud Sabyrkhan in the semi-finals, in Belgrade, on Thursday.
The 21-year-old was beaten 0-5, ending India's campaign in the marquee competition, where Akash became only the seventh Indian male boxer to secure a medal. He also claimed a prize-money of US $25,000.
The Indian started superbly but Sabyrkhan got his measure in a matter of seconds, scoring primarily with fantastic right crosses to slow down Akash after the early burst.
The 19-year-old Kazakh, the country’s reigning National champion, was the less exuberant of the two but clinical in his execution, not letting slip any chances at scoring off counter-attacks.
Sabyrkhan clinched the opening round unanimously and maintained the lead in the second round as well even though Akash gave a better account of himself by troubling the Kazakh with good jabs.
However, Sabyrkhan was not to be fazed by Akash's sporadic shots.
Despite the defeat, the Haryana-lad, who hails from Bhiwani, can be proud of the fantastic performance in his maiden senior international competition.
He upstaged former Olympic silver-medallist Yoel Finol Rivas of Venezuela in the quarter-finals.
A product of the Army Sports Institute in Pune, the Services boxer lost his mother to a lung infection in September and competed in the National Championships unaware of the tragedy.
His father died more than a decade back after initiating him to boxing and his brother is in jail since 2017 in connection with a murder case.
Five Indians made the quarter-finals but four of them, including 2015 bronze-winner Shiva Thapa (63.5kg) and reigning Asian champion Sanjeet (92kg) lost in the quarter-final stage.
India secured an unprecedented silver through Amit Panghal in the event's previous edition, while Manish Kaushik claimed a bronze.
India's previous medal winners at the World Championships were Vijender Singh (Bronze, 2009), Vikas Krishan (Bronze, 2011), Thapa (Bronze, 2015), Gaurav Bidhuri (Bronze, 2017), Panghal (Silver, 2019) and Kaushik (Bronze, 2019).
The gold winners at the showpiece will walk away with a prize-money of US $100,000.
The silver medallists will receive US $50,000, and both bronze-medallists US $25,000 each.
The total prize purse is a whopping US $2.6 million.