He had watched the Olympic champion Hasanboy Dustamov’s videos very closely, soaking in plenty of lessons. And when Amit Panghal met the Uzbek in the 49kg boxing final at the Asian Games here on Saturday, he knew what exactly to do.
He kept bobbing and weaving and staying out of his famed opponent’s reach. A smart defensive strategy and some telling punches towards the end saw Amit shock Hasanboy with a split verdict and take the gold in his maiden Asiad.
The 22-year-old Armyman’s title was India’s lone gold in boxing in Jakarta and only the country’s eighth in the sport at the Asiad. Vikas Krishnan, who conceded a walkover in his 75kg semifinal on Friday to finish with a bronze, was the only other boxing medallist for the country here.
A clever left-hander, Hasanboy had entered the Asiad with a huge reputation. He had won the Val Barker Trophy – awarded to the outstanding boxer at the Olympics by the world body AIBA – in Rio and he was also the Worlds silver medallist and a two-time Asian champion. But Amit did not allow these to worry him though he had lost to the 25-year-old at the Worlds quarterfinal in Hamburg last year.
The Haryana youngster was a good dancer in the ring, he was evasive, he was ducking nicely and when Hasanboy could not land his punches properly, he appeared a bit desperate as the seconds ticked by.
With Amit taking the first round and the Uzbek the next, the final round became a hot affair. Amit landed a hard right to Hasanboy’s face and a little later, another hard blow on his opponent’s forehead. The Uzbek tried to throw a lethal left rook and then a strong right, but he was only punching air as Amit stepped back just in time.
“He is a southpaw and they are rare. So, we had prepared for this bout by watching a lot of his videos, studying his techniques and shortcomings. I had prepared well for this bout and it helped,” said Amit, this year’s Commonwealth Games silver medallist.
“My life will change for the better now…when someone wins gold, his life certainly changes. Mine will also change,” said Amit, the son of a farmer.
Despite Hasanboy’s shock loss, Uzbekistan topped the boxing medal table with five golds while China (two gold medals) finished second and India was fourth with one gold and a bronze.