Lakra defeated but not disgraced in boxing ring

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Beijing, Aug 11: Anthresh Lalit Lakra put up a valiant fight before going down to World number 2 Uzbekistan's Bahodirjon Sultonov 9-5 in the first round of 57kg (Feather Weight) category in the Olympic Boxing competition here today.

Though Lakra failed to emulate his team mate Vijender who fisted his way into the second round in the 75 kg, he gave a heart warming display and gave the Athens Olympic bronze medal winner a run for his money before making an exit from the Olympics.

''He was defeated but not disgraced,'' chief coach GS Sandhu said after the bout and added,'' Lakra fought like a tiger.'' And the coach was bang right as Lakra took on his famed rival and landed a right cross on his body but his two attempted upper cuts missed the target by a whisker and Sultonov with powerful straight counters hit the Indian twice to end the first round with 2-1 lead.

Lakra showed no signs of nervousness as he fought Sultonov on equal terms, landing two stunning hooks on his body but the Uzbek's counters were equally furious and he deftly neutralized the Indian's advantage with hooks.

The second round ended at 2-2 with Uzbek mainiting the overall lead at 4-3.

Lakra had his rival in all sorts of trouble in the third round but could not hold on to advantage because Sultonov Was more agile and swift.

The Indian, despite fighting well, showed some weakness as he left his flanks unguarded. While he landed two blows on Sultonov but also conceded points to end the round at 2-2 with his rival leading 6-5.

In the final round, Lakra went all out on the offensive to draw parity and take the lead and in the process he had to open out.

That was what Sultonov was waiting for, he pounced on the Indian and while Lakra tried to earn points by attacking but failed to defend well as his rival punched him throughly to garner three more points to send him crashing out of the Olympics.

The 24-year-old Lakra had the distinction of being the first Indian boxer to qualify for the Beijing Olympics last year. He gave an awesome display in the World Championships in Chicago, knocking out three opponents in a row. To book the ticket for the mega games.

According to Sandhu,''Lakra is much improved boxer now. Today he was very good. Now he just needs to display nerves at crucial moments.'' The boxer from Orissa, who had won a Silver at the 2003 Afro-Asian Games in Hyderabad and followed it up by winning Gold at Commonwealth Championships, Glasgow, said,'' Well I played well, I was not at all overawed by my rival.'' ''There was no option for me but to open up in the last round, I was trailing 5-6 and to catch up with him I went flat out on the offensive. My rival was lucky as he got a few punches on me, but I have no regrets. I boxed well.'' ''This is my first Olympics and to box against such a formidable opponent for four rounds is good, that is how I look at things,'' he added.

UNI

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