Boxing: Exhausted Fred Evans forced to settle for silver after a fight too far
It was simply a fight too far for Fred Evans in the welterweight final on the 16th and final day of the truly remarkable boxing tournament at the ExCeL, which was once again deserving of its bear-pit nickname.
Evans won four times, overcame the world No 1 – and a demon or two – before facing Kazakhstan's brilliant Serik Sapiyev, and that was when it started to go wrong. "I just never got going and he was just one step in front of me all of the time," Evans said. "He is a great fighter and I did everything I could."
It was always going to be a difficult Olympics for Evans after he was placed in the hard side of the draw; he was immediately in with a tough Algerian, in a fight that seemed to take place a long, long time ago. In his second fight Evans had to beat Lithuania's Egidijus Kavaliauskas, who had dropped and stopped him last year at the World Championships in Baku.
"The draw was not kind to us and Fred was right up against it from the start," said Robert McCracken, boxing's performance director. "We knew that it would take something a bit special to get anywhere near a medal."
Evans did a simple dismantling job on Kavaliauskas and won easily with a score of 11-7, but his quarter-final against Canada's Custio Clayton was, according to the judges, close. Evans won on countback on that occasion to set-up a semi-final with the world champion and top Olympic seed, Taras Shelestyuk.
It was a tense, hard fight but Evans dominated and that meant that the 21-year-old had somehow reached an Olympic final. His awful backstory emerged, and when people found out that he had lost his mother and sister in a car crash six years ago his profile increased. He was, to the ExCeL faithful, little Freddie, the traveller boy from South Wales.
However, there are limits to fairy-tale endings and yesterday afternoon Evans was suddenly struggling with the pace and accuracy of Sapiyev. It looked, sadly, like a lost cause and it ended 17-9, a statistic that falls way short of telling the tale of young Evans and what he delivered inside the Olympic ring.
"I came here determined to get the gold and that is what I believed today," Evans said. "It's all just the start for me – it has made me a better fighter and it has been a great two weeks."
At the end of the fight Evans was exhausted and as he went back to his red corner to get his headguard removed he looked sickened, his face marked from Sapiyev's punches. There was nothing he could do yesterday to alter the result. "I had four hard fights to get to the final and then he was just a bit too sharp for me," said Evans, much later. "I'm still proud of what I did and the medal will always be mine."
Last year Evans won the European Championship and next year the World Championships are in Astana, Kazakhstan and, as for the rest of the boxing team, that is the new target. "I will be older and stronger and I would fancy another fight with him [Sapiyev] in his hometown," Evans added.
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