There was a certain swagger about Ratha Ven in the final of his SEA Games light-welterweight showdown with defending champion Wuttichai Masuk yesterday.
But there was also an air of confidence from his Thai opponent, who smirked when he contrived to miss his hooks and jabs.
Both boxers shimmied and sauntered around the ring, dodging blows and trying to land their own, sizing each other up in the process.
But with a vociferous Cambodian support behind him ("We're going for the gold," they screamed), the 25-year-old Ven (below) looked to have edged an even match at the Singapore Expo.
He started cautiously, counter-attacking to good effect.
Even though Masuk wrestled him to the ground twice in the second round, he grew into the match.
When the final bell sounded, Ven turned to the crowd, pumped his fists and winked.
So it was to his surprise that all three judges unanimously awarded the bout to his Thai opponent.
He certainly did not show it though, as he celebrated with Masuk, hugging him and lifting him off the ground.
After the medal ceremony, Ven told The New Paper: "The decision is the decision. For me, it's not a good decision. But so be it."
The Cuban-born boxer said he was pleased with his silver medal and was grateful to Cambodia for the opportunity to compete under its flag.
When asked if he would aim for the gold at the next SEA Games, Ven grinned and replied: "Sure."
However, his coach Orlando Castellano, 46, was also not satisfied with the result. Speaking through a translator, he said: "I wanted the gold but I felt they took it away from (Ven).
"He did his job and was dominating all the rounds."
Another member of the coaching staff, Ven Sophal, concurred: "When I watched the match, I thought our athlete had won.
"We were not at all intimidated by the fact that Ratha was fighting a defending champion."
But the 56-year-old was more sanguine about the final result. "In sports, you win or you lose. I am satisfied with silver."
As the only Cambodian boxer to have made a final, Sophal said Ven's silver medal signalled a bright future for Cambodian boxing.
"We are going to go back and start preparing for future Games," he said.
This article was first published on June 11 2015.
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