Faster, stronger Amit Panghal beats Rio Olympics gold medallist in Asian boxing quarterfinal

Nitin Sharma
Amit Panghal after beating Olympic champion Hasanboy Dusmatov in the 52kg quarterfinal at the Asian boxing championship on Monday.

It was the fourth meeting between Amit Panghal and Hasanboy Dusmatov, the reigning Olympic champion - the first since the Asian Games final last year. Both have moved to a new weight category (52kg) since and the Indian pugilist was certain that he would face a different challenge in the quarterfinal at the Asian Boxing Championships in Bangkok.

"We were fighting for the fourth time against each other. Dusmatov has won against me twice but the Asian Games final win gave me a lot of confidence. Fighting in a new category was a challenge but I had made plans with our coaches," Panghal reflected on his 3-2 victory on Monday.

"Dusmatov's main weapon is his left hook and my target was to block that and gather points by attacking. This win will motivate me a lot."

In the Asian Games final, Panghal had relied on evading Dusmatov's long-range punches and countering with his own combination of punches. On Monday, the Indian relied on uppercuts and jabs in the first round and the second saw him moving away from Dusmatov's long-range punches.

The Uzbekistan boxer has been known for his jump-and-punch technique but Panghal's quick footwork meant he could avoid the attacks.

"It was a little better display of boxing from Amit today (than the Asian Games final). He was clear in his mind today and quick regarding his tactics. When boxing from outside, Amit was quick on his feet and when boxing from inside, he caught Dusmatov and landed clear punches," India's foreign coach and chief performance director Santiago Nieva told The Indian Express.

"The best thing was that Amit did not forget to punch the body and connected on both head and body, which must have impressed the judges. In the second round, Dusmatov was trying to hold Amit but he was quick in getting out. Dusmatov tried his left hook in the second round and also used his tactics of jump-and-punch but Amit read that and moved away. It unsettled the Uzbek."

While Panghal had only participated in one tournament in the 52kg category - the Stranja Memorial Boxing Championships - Dusmatov made the shift from 49kg after the Asian Games. The 49kg category is no longer in the Olympics. Two of the medallists in the 52kg category at the 2017 world Championships came from Asia and Nieva believes that competing in more tournaments will help Amit.

Weighty issues

"He has not competed in many tournaments in the 52kg category. If we see Dusmatov, his built is almost similar to Amit's and that will not be case with other taller boxers in this weight category. Amit's advantage in the new weight category has been his fast feet which makes him difficult to target for opponents. And he has the ring intelligence to counter taller boxers. As he competes more in this category, Amit will have to rely on more variations of punches against taller boxers," explains Nieva.

Chief coach C Kuttappa too has been spending time with Panghal and watched his first bout of the tournament against Chinese Taipei's Tu Po Wei, which Panghal won 5:0.

"In 49kg, most of his opponents were shorter. When we made the decision about changing the weight category, we increased the number of punches during padding sessions and spent time on making him try combination when a tall boxer relies on long punches. Apart from that, Amit has to use body punches and his body movement should be faster compared to in 49Kg and he should know how to move after his punches," says Kutappa.