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Vijender settles for bronze

New Delhi: Vijender Kumar’s great run in the world championships came to an end on Friday when the middleweight boxer went down 3-7 to Uzbekistan’s Abbos Atoev in the semi-finals in Milan.

The Haryana pugilist, thus, had to settle for bronze, which he had ensured by reaching the last-four stage. He is the first Indian to do so. Last year, Vijender won India’s first Olympic boxing medal.

“The result is definitely disappointing for me, but I am happy to become the first Indian to win a medal,” said Vijender, after the bout. “My opponent was very good and he was a deserving winner.”

Vijender, who had defeated Atoev in the Asian championships, was considered favourite to enter the final but came a cropper against the Uzbek, specially in the second round.

The mighty Uzbek, a former world champion in the light heavyweight category, was not at his best in the first round when Vijender was able to grab a point to take a 1-0 lead.

Atoev turned the bout completely in his favour in the second round. Like India’s Akhil Kumar, the Uzbek, too, fights without his guard on but Vijender could take no advantage of it. Instead, it was Atoev who hammered the Indian with a series of straight right punches to score points. So dominating was the Uzbek that he received a 4-0 verdict from the judges in this round.

“Atoev looked a much improved boxer than what he was during the Asian championships in China,” said India’s chief coach G.S. Sandhu. “He was extremely aggressive. Vijender had problems in countering his opponent today (Friday). But our boy did well in the first and the third rounds.”

In the third round, Vijender tried to make amends, but his efforts were not enough to put the Uzbek in trouble. Both the boxers traded punches on an even note in this round and received two points each.

In the other semi-final, Andranik Hakobyan of Armenia defeated Alfonso Blanco of Venezuela 4-3 to set up the title clash with Atoev.

Meanwhile, the contract row between Vijender and Infinity Optimal Solutions Pvt Ltd took an ugly turn Saturday with the sports management firm threatening to take the boxer to the court.

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