Light on his feet and devastating with his fists, Amit Panghal was India’s hero in the boxing ring on Saturday. In a brilliant performance, Amit defeated the reigning Olympic champion Hasanboy Dusmatov of Uzbekistan in the 49kg class, claiming India’s only gold from the ring at the 18th Asian Games.
The 22-year-old was hardly overawed by the occasion, or by the fact that he was fighting the Olympic champion. He made his plans clear from the beginning and went about implementing it in a business-like manner. Simply put, Amit seized the moment.
It was India’s eighth gold medal in men’s boxing in Asian Games history, with the man from Rohtak joining Padam Bahadur Mall (1962), Hawa Singh (1966, 1970), Kaur Singh (1982), Dingko Singh (1998), Vikas Krishan (2010) and Vijender Singh (2010). MC Mary Kom had won the gold in women’s section in 2014.
Amit had to fight hard to make the final through a split decision and he earned another split verdict, 3-2, in his favour in the gold medal bout. But his victory was more clear-cut this time.
The Indian took the fight to the Uzbekistani. Moving beautifully and landing a combination of punches, he rattled Dusmatov. He finished the first round with another punch to the head and by the time the round was over, Dusmatov had bruises under his left-eye and scars on his mind.
Amit continued in the same way in the second round too. The key was his movement and the way he evaded Dusmatov’s punches. More often than not, the Olympic champion was connecting air, leaving him frustrated. Amit then staggered Dusmatov with a blow to the head and he had to struggle to stay on his feet. However, the Uzbek did land a couple of punches to let his rival know that he was very much in the contest.
Dusmatov, realising the need to up the tempo, came out with more aggressive intent in the third but Amit was alert to the danger, and he kept dancing away. The blows he took weren’t enough to drain his advantage and as the decision was announced, he raised his arms in celebration. Amit had lost to the same opponent in the quarterfinal of last year’s World Championships but on this day, he was simply unbeatable.
India had won one gold and four bronze from boxing four years ago. This time, they return with a bronze and a gold — a lesser haul but with a worthy champion in their midst.