Was So Unwell I Wanted to Skip Final: Amit Panghal on Asian Gold
Video Editor: Sandeep Suman
Camera: Abhishek Ranjan
Since the Strandja Memorial Tournament in February last year, Indian boxer Amit Panghal has been on a winning streak that has seen him win a silver at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, a gold at the Asian Games in Jakarta, defend his gold at Strandja, and then clinch another gold at the recently concluded Asian Championships.
In just over a year’s time, the 23-year-old from Rohtak has become the flag-bearer of Indian boxing, and has his eyes now set on the 2020 Olympic Games, for which he was forced to change his weight category just two months back.
After 49 kg was dropped from the Olympic programme by the AIBA, Panghal moved up to the 52 kg category, a category with opponents much taller and bigger than him.
Just two months since then, and he boxed his way to a gold in his new weight category at the Asian Championships on 26 April. When asked if this win was more challenging, he said, “It wasn’t difficult because we had practiced a lot for the 52kg category. As soon as I got to know that 52kg has been included, and that 49kg has been removed, I had started training in the new category. As I prepared, I concentrated a bit on power punches and practised the extended reach that we get in the 52kg category. With all that practice I went, and I was successful”.
Even though he makes it sound simple, Amit did defeat a world champion, an Olympic bronze medallist and a world championships bronze medallist en route his second gold of the year.
In the quarterfinal of the Asian Championships, Panghal met an old opponent Hasanboy Dusmatov and defeated him for the second-straight time. At the Asian Games final last year, Amit had defeated the reigning Olympic champion in the gold medal match and avenged his loss in the 2018 World Championships.
“I had taken confidence from that (Asian Games final) win and this time, I wanted to beat him with a bigger margin. I had watched the previous bouts, the Asian Games final and the World Championship bout (that Amit lost). My target was to block his main punch and attack him with more and more punches.”Amit Panghal
In the semi-final he defeated Rio Olympics bronze medallist in 52kg Hu Jianghuan of Korea and set up a final against World Championship bronze medallist Inkyu.
The night before the big gold medal match, however, Amit was running a fever and was feeling so down that he even wanted to skip the bout.
“After the semi-final, my health was in a pretty bad shape. The physiotherapist travelling with us – Rohit Kashyap – he motivated me, gave me some tablets. He kept checking up on me at night and also came early in the morning to ask if I wanted to fight. I told him, ‘Yes, I’ll definitely fight. And we’ll take the gold home’,” said Panghal.
Road to Claiming a Maiden Olympic Berth
Amit is now on a journey that he hopes will culminate in winning India its third Olympic medal in boxing after Vijender Singh bagged a bronze in 2008 and Mary Kom one in 2012. The next step for now is to claim his Olympic berth at the upcoming World Championships.
Asked if India can be assured of another Olympic metal, Amit said, “I will give it my best and try to do justice to the hopes that Indians have pinned on me”.
Lucky Charm Behind Amit’s Success
After saying that he was grateful for all the work that his coaches and support stuff put into him, Amit revealed that his brother’s daughter Mehak is his lucky charm. “She always tell me, 'Wherever you go, win a gold and get me lots of chocolates',” he said.
In a message to the young and upcoming boxers in the country, Amit said, “To the current youth boxers in the country, I would say that practise as well as you can. It’s not important that only this one Amit wins. There can be thousands of Amits who can win medals for their country. Keep practicing, follow your schedule, and win medals.”