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Ben Whittaker regrets not wearing medal on podium after feeling like a ‘failure’

·4 min read

Ben Whittaker insisted he meant no disrespect by putting his Olympic silver in his pocket at the medal ceremony, revealing he felt like a “failure” after losing in the men’s light-heavyweight final.

The 24-year-old was in tears on the podium after being outclassed by Cuba’s Arlen Lopez, who was awarded a split decision win to become a two-time Olympic champion, having gone all the way at middleweight at Rio 2016.

However, Whittaker’s actions afterwards overshadowed what was a fine performance by the slick southpaw, who won on four of the five judges’ scorecards at the Kokugikan Arena, with the Briton refusing to wear his medal.

Ben Whittaker was crestfallen after his defeat in the men's light-heavyweight final (Mike Egerton/PA)
Ben Whittaker was crestfallen after his defeat in the men’s light-heavyweight final (Mike Egerton/PA)

Whittaker, who put the medal around his neck when speaking to the media, had no complaints with the decision and seemed regretful at what he had done moments before, admitting he was still feeling the pain of his points defeat.

“I was doing it for everybody at home and I felt like a failure,” he said. “At the time, I should have put this beautiful silver medal round my neck and smiled because this is not just for me, it’s for the country.

“Even when I’m playing FIFA with my mates and I lose, I’m not talking to them for the next couple of hours – I’ve always been like that since I was a kid – so please accept that I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful to anyone.

“I wasn’t trying to take the shine away from Arlen’s moment but it hurt me so deep, and I felt so embarrassed. I will look back on it later and think ‘what was I doing?’ But I would like to thank everyone for getting behind me.

“Every boxer doesn’t go in there to receive a silver medal, every boxer in my weight class wanted the gold. I woke up this morning truly believing it was my time.

Cuba’s Arlen Lopez, right, is now a two-time Olympic champion (Mike Egerton/PA)
Cuba’s Arlen Lopez, right, is now a two-time Olympic champion (Mike Egerton/PA)

“When I look back in a few years, it will probably feel like a great achievement, but I was so upset that I couldn’t enjoy it.”

The taller Whittaker attempted to establish his range with the jab but Lopez showed his experience by frequently stepping inside to turn the contest in his favour. Whittaker edged the last round, but it was too little, too late.

It is the second time in less than 24 hours that a Briton has lost in the showpiece to a Cuban, with Pat McCormack on Tuesday night falling short against Roniel Iglesias in the men’s welterweight final.

“Arlen is now a two-time Olympic gold medallist, which says it all,” Whittaker added. “I remember watching him in around 2014-15 when I was still on local hall shows and I never thought I would get the chance to box him, which shows how far I’ve come.

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“It’s very, very strange how idols turn to rivals. I wouldn’t say I was in awe of him, but I really respected him, and hopefully one day I’ll get to meet him again and have the chance to right that wrong.”

Whittaker’s defeat came hot on the heels of Frazer Clarke missing out on a place in the final of the men’s super-heavyweight category, with the 29-year-old stopped in the third round after a nasty cut opened above his right eye.

While GB Boxing are guaranteed six medals – their best haul since the 1920 Games – their hopes of bringing back a gold now rest with men’s flyweight Galal Yafai and women’s middleweight Lauren Price.

Yafai takes on Kazakhstan’s Saken Bibossinov in their semi-final on Thursday while Price goes up against Holland’s Nouchka Fontijn, with a place in the gold medal match at stake.

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