Vijender packs a punch

He won a bronze, but deserved a better medal. India's middleweight boxer, Vijender, 21, fought a quality bout against Olympic welterweight champion Bakhtiyar Artayev of Kazakhstan, but could not keep pace with the speeding computer.

The tall and strongly built lad from Bhiwani had the measure of his opponent but the Kazakh kept getting points a few times even without hitting the Indian.

The Cuban coach working with the Indian team, B. I. Fernandez, was helpless as nobody could do anything about it. "My boy won. The opponent got too many free points,'' he said after the fierce semi-final bout in which Vijender recovered from a slow start to keep the Kazakh at bay.

The final score read 29-24 in favour of the Athens Olympic champion who got off to a good start, leading 8-4 in the first round.

"I fought hard, but I was not successful. In the first round, my opponent got four points more, and I didn't take that many hits. He is a very good fighter, but next time I will beat him,'' said Vijender, who was quite composed despite feeling robbed of a berth in the final.

Throughout the bout the score kept jumping in favour of the Kazakh even without any correlation to the punches he threw. Vijender bridged the gap up to 22-24 but there was another spurt that put paid to his hopes as the seconds ran out on the clock. "I expected to win this fight,'' said Vijender who had won the silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, and the gold at the SAF Games in Colombo.

"My opponent was very good. I am sure I will see him again,'' said Artayaev in acknowledgement of Vijender's ability.

Vijender was pretty sharp in the first two bouts on way to the semi-finals. He beat Mustafa Farrah of Syria 34-18 in the first round. In the quarterfinals, the referee stopped the contest in the second round after Vijender proved too good for Shukuralla Atajanov of Turkmenistan.

Vijender admits that he has scope to improve a lot more. "I want to improve my strength. My footwork and straight punches are my strength,'' he said.