Asian Boxing Qualifiers: All eyes on Mary Kom, Amit Panghal as they eye Olympic berth

Mary Kom will face New Zealand’s Tasmyn Benny in the first round, while Amit Panghal will square up against Mongolia’s Enkhmanadakh Kharkhuu.

Mary Kom (in red) is looking to qualify for the Olympics for a second time.   -  Ritu Raj Konwar

London Olympics bronze medallist Mary Kom (51kg) and World Championships silver medallist Amit Panghal (52kg) will begin their quest for a Tokyo Games berth when they enter the ring at the Asian Olympic Qualifiers here on Saturday.

Mary Kom’s hunger at the age of 37 has been exemplary as she sets her sights on qualifying for the Olympics for a second time. She has been putting in the hard yards at training a few months after earning a bronze at the World Championships, that made her the first boxer — male or female — to win a staggering eight medals from the Worlds.

The six-time world champion has been seeded second in her category and will face New Zealand’s Tasmyn Benny in the first round. Two wins will take her to Tokyo in what could be her last appearance at the Games.

“Mary knows that this is her last Olympics and wants to do her best to close her dream with a medal. She has worked hard, especially the reactivity work on the legs as well and has been working hard to be in good shape,” said foreign coach of Indian women’s boxing Raffaele Bergamasco.

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Purple patch

Panghal is currently enjoying a purple patch in his career. A gold at the Asian Games was the start of his dominant show.

He then bagged another gold at the Asian Championships before winning a historic silver at the World Championships. He starts off his campaign against Mongolia’s Enkhmanadakh Kharkhuu after a first-round bye as the top seed in his category. He has a 1-1 record against his opponent.

“Amit boxed against him before in the Asian Games and beat him one-sided. And in the World Military Games, Amit lost 5:0 to the same guy. Our plan is to create surprises in every round and I am sure Amit would like to even scores as he faces his opponent tomorrow,” said C.A. Kuttappa, India’s head boxing coach.