London, Aug 9: Indian boxer Devendro Singh's bid for an Olympic bronze medal was dashed after he succumbed to Ireland's Paddy Barnes in a high-voltage quarter-final contest which was marked by some debatable refereeing and controversial warnings at the Excel Arena here.
The 20-year-old Devendro fought gallantly last night but could not prevail over his stronger opponent who scripted a 23-18 victory to romp into the semi-finals. But the high-scoring result left the Indian contingent fuming as they claimed that the refereeing had gone heavily against the diminutive Indian who was warned once in the second round.
With Devendro's exit, the Indian challenge in the boxing ring also came to an end with only MC Mary Kom providing the spark with a historic bronze medal in women's boxing which has been introduced in the Olympics for the first time.
Backed by the noisy crowd, Barnes took an early lead by winning the first round 7-5 and maintained the tempo right through to send the Indian packing out of his maiden Olympics much to the disappointment of the Indian fans.
Both the boxers started the contest on a very aggressive note as they unleashed a flurry of punches at each other but the Irish pugilist relied on his experience to gain the upper hand.
Trailing by two points, Devendro continued to be aggressive but a warning against him gave his opponent a bigger lead by the end of the second round which ended 10-5.
The third and final round saw both the boxers going all out and Devendro desperately tried to regain lost ground. Barnes, who had eked out a comfortable lead by then, was warned in the third round.
But he ensured that he did not concede too many points and allow Devendro to bounce back. The entire stadium, mostly filled up with Irish supports, burst into cheers when Barnes was declared the winner. Barnes will take on top seed Shiming Zhou of China in the semi finals on Aug 10.
Zhou defeated Birzhan Zhakypov of Kazakistan 13-10 in the quarter finals. The Indians were livid with the point decisions which they claimed had been extremely unfair on Devendro.
"There were so many mistakes against our boxers. He (Barnes) was not hitting the right spots and still getting points. It was not fair," India's foreign coach BI Fernandez said after the bout.
"The refereeing was poor, not only in this bout but many other Indian bouts. It is very sad, but we have to live with it. The opponent was clearly holding, but he didn't say anything," Fernandez said.
On the mood in the Indian boxing camp, he said, "It's very difficult. We deserved to get a medal here."
Coach Gurbakhsh Singh Sandhu said some times referees go with the crowd and Devendro was hit hard by that.
"Sometimes the referees go with the crowd. The referees use their own mind, I don’t want to say too much on it," Sandhu said. On the performance of the Indian team, he said "I am extremely happy with the overall performance of the Indian boxers. I am very sad because I think I am responsible for not being able to translate those performances into medal winning performances."
"We had come for medals. We are very grateful to Mary Kom who has come to our rescue and got a medal," he said.
Sandhu was, however, full of praise for young Devendro who fought his heart out but was unlucky not to make it to the semi-final.
"He fought his heart, he was aggressive right through. What else do you expect from such a young boxer? I am happy with his performance," Sandhu said.
Barnes was thrilled with his victory and said he was now looking forward to the semi-finals.
"It is a dream come true to be here. I am over the moon. It was a real achievement. The fans make me proud to be Irish. Words can't describe how I am feeling," Barnes said.
"I knew he would come forward all guns blazing. It was really nerve wracking, but I dug deep and just got on with it," he said.
On meeting ZOU Shiming of China in the semifinal, he said "Bronze medals are for losers. I am fighting a guy in the next fight who beat me 15-0 in Beijing. Our plan in the next fight is to score a point."
On becoming the first Irish boxer to win medals at successive Olympic Games, he said "I don't really think about that. Just qualifying for the Olympics was a dream come true."