'I feel like a failure,' says Team GB boxer after earning silver medal

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Watch: Ben Whittaker wins silver in the ring on day 12 of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

British boxer Ben Whittaker has said he felt like a “failure” after winning silver in the men’s light-heavyweight category, as he explained why he didn't wear his medal on the podium.

Cuba’s Arlen Lopez was awarded a split-decision victory over Whittaker in the final on Wednesday to become a two-time Olympic champion. 

A tearful Whittaker, from Wolverhampton, subsequently put his medal in his pocket on the podium, overshadowing the performance of the Cuban, who was ahead on four of the five scorecards. 

(LtoR) Silver medallist Britain's Benjamin Whittaker, gold medallist Cuba's Arlen Lopez, bronze medallists Russia's Imam Khataev and Azerbaijan's Loren Berto Alfonso Dominguez celebrate with their medal on the podium after the men's light heavy (75-81kg) boxing final bout during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo on August 4, 2021. (Photo by Buda MENDES / POOL / AFP) (Photo by BUDA MENDES/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Ben Whittaker, left, cuts a dejected figure after winning silver. (Buda Mendes/Pool/AFP)

However, after the ceremony, the Briton's medal was visible as he spoke to the media, and the fast-talking boxer seemed to backtrack on his podium decision.

“I was doing it for everybody at home and I felt like a failure,” he told reporters. “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.

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“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."

Whittaker will now get the chance to become the unofficial mayor of Wolverhampton on his return to the UK, the city’s mayor said on Wednesday.

Britain's Benjamin Whittaker (red) and Cuba's Arlen Lopez fight during their men's light heavy (75-81kg) boxing final bout during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo on August 4, 2021. (Photo by Buda Mendes / POOL / AFP) (Photo by BUDA MENDES/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Britain's Ben Whittaker and Cuba's Arlen Lopez fight during their men's light heavy (75-81kg) boxing final bout. (Photo by Buda Mendes / POOL / AFP)

Greg Brackenridge said Whittaker will receive a hero’s welcome on his return, and that his Tokyo performance had “earned a day with the mayoral chains”.

On Tuesday, Britain's Pat McCormack also fell short against a Cuban, Roniel Iglesias, in the men’s welterweight final.

Gold medallist Cuba's Arlen Lopez (R) celebrates on the podium next to silver medallist Britain's Benjamin Whittaker after their men's light heavy (75-81kg) boxing final bout during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo on August 4, 2021. (Photo by Buda Mendes / POOL / AFP) (Photo by BUDA MENDES/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Britain's Ben Whittaker stands on the medal podium without his silver medal around his neck after the men's light heavy boxing final. (Buda Mendes/Pool/AFP)

Meanwhile, Team GB boxing captain Frazer Clarke missed out on a place in the men’s super-heavyweight final. The 29-year-old was stopped in the third round after a deepening cut opened above his right eye.

GB Boxing are guaranteed six medals at the Tokyo Games, their best haul since the 1920 Olympics.

Hopes of gold now rest with men’s flyweight Galal Yafai and women’s middleweight Lauren Price.

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