Emmet Brennan's Olympic campaign came to a close this afternoon following defeat at the hands of Uzbekistan’s Dilshodbek Ruzmetov.
The Dublin light-heavyweight found himself on the losing side of a unanimous verdict, his decorated opponent triumphing on three ringside scores of 30-27 and two of 29-28 in what was the pair’s opening bout of Tokyo 2020.
Ruzmetov, a 2019 world silver medalist and reigning Asian Games champion, quickly put that pedigree into practice through round one, belying his non-seeded status in the tournament’s 81kg classification.
The Uzbek’s looming presence was immediately apparent, pivoting expertly around the perimeter of the ring as Brennan endeavored to close the distance quickly with leaping shots from the outside, working steadfastly in close at every opportunity.
Ruzmetov’s slicker shot selection was highlighted by a brilliant one-two midway through the opener, as he continued to set the table for his varied left hooks upstairs and down.
The 22-year-old was not found wanting in close either as the action moved into round two, even warned on occasion for his rough-house ripostes on the inside as Brennan sought to initiate phone-booth warfare.
The North Strand native was not without his own success, though, a lovely mix of off-beat leads catching Ruzmetov on his heels, his work rate troubling the pre-match favourite.
That was also true of the third and final round, Brennan landing home with eye-catching left hooks as he sought to close strong. It was the Uzbek southpaw who ultimately won out though, his greater polish and cleaner output over the nine-minutes enough to book his place in the Last 16.
“It’s tough, I obviously knew he was good but I have to believe I’ll beat anyone”, an emotional Brennan told RTÉ post-fight.
“He was very, very sharp. A very good counter-boxer, he spoiled a bit, but he did what he had to do to win the fight. It is gutting though, absolutely gutting “I put a huge effort in to get here, without my family I wouldn’t be here. I know I didn’t let them down, but you want to win.
"The lads know I’ve been injured for six months... the biggest fight of your life and your body lets you down. Elbow, shoulder, ribs. I got a smack in the ribs at the end of the first round here.
“I’ve done maybe two rounds of sparring since I qualified. I thought the rib was alright, and it was until the last ten or 20 seconds of the first round when he caught me and took the wind out of me.
“But I just want to say a huge thanks to everyone at home in Dublin, their support has been unreal and I never thought I’d get this. It’s heartbreaking.” Although his journey is at its end, Brennan’s presence at these games remains in itself a championed achievement.
A now celebrated Cinderella story, the Dubliner returned to the sport five years ago following a lengthy hiatus, at one point taking out a Credit Union loan to fund his Tokyo tilt, as well as latterly overcoming Covid-induced delays and injury setbacks.
In terms of remaining podium pursuits at these games, Team Ireland will have two chances to get back to winning ways between the ropes tomorrow, with both Brendan Irvine and Michaela Walsh keen to build on Kurt Walker’s excellent opening-day victory.
Team captain Irvine, the sole survivor from 2016’s boxing panel, will fly the flag from 4.03am Irish time when he dukes it out with Filipino flyweight Carlo Paalam.
Long-time medal hopeful Walsh follows at 6.30am, and will aim to avenge June’s defeat to Irma Testa when the duo renew hostilities for a place in the featherweight quarter finals.