Amit Panghal (49kg) on Saturday became only the eighth Indian boxer ever to claim a gold medal at the Asian Games with a stunning tactical win over reigning Olympic and Asian champion Hasanboy Dusmatov in the summit clash here. The 22-year-old Army man, the only Indian to make the finals, prevailed 3-2 against the more fancied Dusmatov, who had beaten him in a split verdict in last year’s world championships.
India signed off its boxing campaign at the Games with a gold and a bronze, won by Vikas Krishan in the middle-weight category. Amit, making his debut at the Games, showed immense tactical brilliance, especially in defence to outmanoeuvre the Uzbek, who has an iconic status in international boxing. Dusmatov won a silver in the world championship last year. But today, the Haryana-boxer extracted sweet revenge for the narrow loss in Hamburg, keeping his range and striking some clean right hooks and jabs to unsettle his shorter and slightly edgy opponent.
“I had lost to him before, so I had to take revenge. Coach Santiago (Nieva) and other coaches had prepared me well. In the semifinal, I did not play the first round well, here I did not repeat that mistake,” Amit said after the bout. “The coach asked me get him on counter-attack. The training in England and at the camp in India helped. I had sparred with southpaw boxers at both places. I knew how to take advantage of the upper cut,” he added.
The Uzbek southpaw, known for his brilliant counter-attacks, seemed wary of the constantly-on-the-move Indian, who refused to fall into the trap of diving in. The result was a frustrated Dusmatov being forced to lunge forward which worked perfectly well for the Indian’s own counter-attacking game.
“We knew he is an explosive boxer, so we asked Amit to stay away from him. Amit had not played a great first round in his semifinal but today he was good, so he did not have to catch up and he connected his punches,” said Indian boxing’s High Performance Director and men’s chief coach Santiago Nieva.
“He (Dusmatov) got tired towards the end and his punches did not have the strength. Amit was fast today. He had the first round, we knew he had the strength to pull it off. It can’t get bigger than this for him. “We had high expectations from Amit and also from others. The medals are 2-3 less than what we had expected. Nobody wants to go back with a bad result,” he added, speaking of the early exits of some other boxers.
Today’s win marks the highest point of Amit’s meteoric rise to the top, starting with an Asian Championships bronze last year. A world quarter-finalist, Amit claimed a silver in the Commonwealth Games. Earlier this year, he also won gold medals at the inaugural India Open and the prestigious Strandja memorial in Bulgaria.
Vijender Singh and Vikas Krishan were the last set of male gold-medallists for India at the Asian Games. They had won their yellow metal at the 2010 Guangzhou edition.
Vikas (75kg) settled for a bronze this time after being forced to pull out from the semifinals due to an eye injury. It was his third successive medal after the 2010 gold and 2014 bronze, making him the first boxer to achieve the feat.
In the 2014 Games, M C Mary Kom became the first and till now the only Indian woman boxer to fetch an Asian Games gold medal for India.
The first Indian boxer to claim an Asiad gold was Padam Bahadur Mall, who notched it back in 1962.
The legendary Hawa Singh is the only Indian boxer with back-to-back gold medals in the Games, his top finishes coming in 1966 and 1970 in the heavyweight category.