LONDON (Reuters) - The poster boy of Indian boxing, Vijender Singh, came through a close battle with American Terrell Gausha on Thursday to make the last eight of the middleweights as the grumbles about officiating at the London Games continued.
The powerful 26 year-old edged a close contest, which could have gone either way, 16-15 with his stiff left jab probably catching the eye of the judges more than the speed of Gausha.
Roared on by a partisan crowd at the Excel arena, Vijender admitted to feeling the pressure of carrying the hopes of billion people back home.
“I stayed calm and I fought in very close and I won the fight,” said the policeman, who fought in front of former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield.
“All India watching. They love me and I love them and long may they support me,” added the Indian, whose left cheek was marked from the bout.
Gausha said he was proud of his display in defeat, the American team’s seventh consecutive loss this week after opening with four wins.
The 24-year-old then replicated his fast footwork in the ring by trying to dance around questions about whether he thought the result was fair.
“I knew it was a close fight, I wasn’t sure which way it was going to go, I was just hoping I got the nod but unfortunately I didn‘t,” he said.
”I didn’t feel bad as I knew I had given everything I could and the world was watching.
“Not to take away from my opponent, he did good, but I felt I was edging him a little bit.”
The respectful delivery was in stark contrast to other fighters on Thursday night after the disciplinary actions of world governing body International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA).
Having expelled a Turkmenistan referee from the Games, suspended a German referee for five days and sent home a technical official from Azerbaijan following two controversial decisions, the fighters and trainers went on the attack.
The coach of Belarussian lightweight Vazgen Safaryants lodged a complaint with AIBA after he was angered by a narrow loss to South Korea’s Han Soon-chul.
The bout ended 13-13 and the two fighters could not be split on a countback, with the judges then deciding that Han was the victor, drawing boos from the crowd.
That followed a complaint by the Ukrainian Evhen Khytrov after he lost to home favorite Anthony Ogogo in the same manner as Safaryants. AIBA dismissed the Ukrainian’s protest.
Reporting by Patrick Johnston; editing by