Boxer Satish Kumar lost to Uzbekistan's Bakhodir Jalolov 5-0 in the men's super heavyweight (+91kg) quarterfinals at the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday, missing out on a medal in the process. A win would have guaranteed him at least a bronze medal as there are no bronze medal playoffs in boxing.
India continue to remain at one boxing medal, and two overall, at the Tokyo Games after Mirabai Chanu's 49kg weightlifting silver and Lovlina Borgohain in the women's welterweight (69kg) category. On Saturday, Pooja Rani missed out on a medal as well after losing her women's middleweight quarterfinal. On Friday, World No. 3 Lovlina won her quarterfinal against World No. 2 Chen Nien-Chin of Chinese Taipei to ensure she will win at least a bronze medal. The Indian will face Turkey's Busenaz Surmeneli, the reigning World Champion and current World No. 1, in the semifinals on August 4 for a chance to box for gold.
Satish, the first Indian to qualify for the Olympics in the super heavyweight category, was dominated by reigning world champion Jalolov, who never looked troubled at any stage of the bout. Jalolov's dominance was reflected in the judges' unanimous decision. All five judges scored the Uzbek 10 points each, to nine each for the Indian, in the first round. The exact same scores were awarded in the second and third round, towards the end of which Satish appeared to just be getting through to the end. The Indian took a break with about 15 seconds left in the bout to receive medical assistance to a cut he had above his eye coming into the bout, and he did not land any punches afterwards.
"My phone hasn't stopped ringing, people are congratulating me as if I won. I am on medication right now but I know how badly bruised my face is," the 32-year-old Army man said in an interview to PTI after the match, his voice clearly a bit groggy from the effects of the pain-killing medication he had received for his 13 stitches..
Satish sustained two deep cuts -- on his forehead and chin -- during the pre-quarterfinals but decided to fight his next bout against Uzbek superstar Jalolov nonetheless.
"My chin has seven stitches and my forehead has another six. Par marta kya na karta, I knew I wanted to fight. Otherwise I would have lived with that regret of what if. Now I can be at peace and also probably a little content with myself that I gave my best," he said.
"My wife had told me not to fight. My father also said that it is too much to watch me fight like this. That's not unexpected, family can't see you hurt. But then they understood that I wanted to do this," said the father of two school-going children.
Were his children watching the bout on Sunday? "Yes they were, I have a son and a daughter (one in class I and other in class II) and they were both watching. I hope they felt proud," he said.
"Jalolov came up to me after the bout and said 'good bout'. He knew I had stood my ground, it felt nice to be acknowledged like that. Then my coaches also told me how proud they are of me, that nobody expected me to go this far," the man from Bulandshahr said.
"But that's Olympics I guess, surprises everywhere. I am also a surprise package only without a medal," he added with a hearty laugh.
"I got a lot of confidence from this bout, that yes I can be upto it as well. I wish I wasn't this badly bruised. I would have done better," he said.
The Indian men's boxing team's Olympic campaign has been somewhat underwhelming with only Satish making the last eight among the five who qualified.
But the veteran of the group offered his support to those who lost early.
"We all got such difficult draws. Not one of us got a draw which could be called relatively easy. Nobody wants to lose, but what to do, it happens in sport. I am sure all of us would be back stronger," he said.
The former kabaddi player, who got into boxing on the insistence of Army coaches, said he would not hesitate to take the ring with such cuts even in future.
"That's the whole idea of being a sportsperson. You don't give up, you never give up," he said.
Born in Bulandshahr, Uttar Pradesh, Satish, the son of a farmer, wanted to join the army like his elder brother had done. After joining as a sepoy and moving to Ranikhet, Uttarakhand, in 2008, he was urged to try boxing after being spotted for his height and build at a boxing camp. Satish reportedly didn't even know what boxing was at the time. "I heard about boxing for the first time in 2008. Otherwise, I used to think that WWE is boxing," he told the Indo-Asian News Service agency. "I knew Undertaker and John Cena but not real boxing."
Satish won his first medal in boxing in his maiden appearance at the Senior National Championships in Chennai. He went on to win bronze in the super heavyweight category at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, followed by bronze at the 2015 Asian Championships.
During a qualifier for the 2016 Rio Olympics, Satish had been dominating against an Irish boxer when a gash above his eye forced him to retire, costing him a maiden Olympic appearance.
Satish later won silver at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, and won a second Asian Championships bronze at the 2019 edition of the tournament. He considers Vijender and Vikas Krishan among his favourite boxers. "Vijender is very technical while Vikas can box anyway he wants to; he can dominate opponents and is adept at the ring," Satish, who has risen to the rank of Subedar Major in the Indian army, told the Olympic Channel.