Strandja Memorial: Amit Panghal dedicates medal to victims of terrorist attack

The Indian boxer out-punched Kazakhstan’s Temirtas Zhussupov to win gold in the 49kg category.

Amit Panghal poses with his gold medal on Tuesday.   -  PTI

Amit Panghal, the Indian boxer, has dedicated his gold medal won at the Strandja Memorial tourney to the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel who lost their lives in the terrorist attack in Pulwama. “It hurt a little bit more because I belong to the armed forces,” Panghal said, referring to the incident on February 14, 2019.

Panghal, a gold-medallist at the Asian Games, ensured a second consecutive top finish at one of Europe’s oldest boxing competitions on Tuesday night; he out-punched Kazakhstan’s Temirtas Zhussupov in the summit clash in Sofia, Bulgaria. With the win, he became India’s lone male boxer to claim a medal at the tourney.

Read | Amit, Nikhat strike gold

“I was desperate for a medal because I wanted to dedicate it to the heroes who lost their lives in Pulwama. This was my mindset the moment I got to know of the attack after landing here,” Panghal told PTI.

“I was in touch with my family members during the tournament and they also told me that I had to win a medal in honour of the Pulwama martyrs. I was doubly motivated by this thought,” Panghal added.

He wasn’t the only boxer to dedicate his medal to the slain CRPF personnel. He was joined by Nikhat Zareen, who won gold in the women’s 51kg category. Overall, India won seven medals — three gold, a silver, and three bronze medals.

Difficulties

Panghal elaborated his difficulties in the run-up to the main draw. “It was difficult to get the right weight because of the cold here. So, I went to bed hungry for a couple of days, trained the next morning to ensure that I was ready at the time of weigh-in on the day of draws,” he said.

“It was tough but worth every bit of the trouble because in the end, I could accomplish what I wanted,” he added, referring to the sub-zero temperatures in Sofia which made it difficult to shed weight.

Amit Panghal will now transition to the 52kg category. Photo: AP

 

Panghal admitted the competition he faced this time was a notch higher than in 2018. “Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine fielded their strongest line-ups. This was not the case last time. The guy I fought in the final was the bronze-medallist from the Asian Games last year and had won in India during a World Series of Boxing bout. I had not fought with him earlier as he was not in my half during the Asian Games but I knew I could do it,” he said.

‘Very tough’ transition

Panghal declared he would no longer participate in the 49kg category. “I have no choice but to jump to 52kg because 49kg is not there in the Olympic program for Tokyo 2020 and I can’t afford to skip that. This was my last competition in 49kg and I will be competing in the 52kg category if I am selected for the Asian Championships. It is going to be very tough for me because 49kg is a weight class that I am comfortable in,” he said.

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Commenting on the specific challenges that the transition would bring with it, Panghal said, “I am going to need a lot more power and it is not going to be easy but I am confident of making it happen.”

The Asian Championships are scheduled to be held in April 19 to 27 in Bangkok, Thailand. In a first, the competition for both men and women will be held simultaneously.

“Amit will start his 52kg stint with a tournament in Germany which is round-robin so there is no pressure of a medal. We will see how it goes for him there and figure out,” national chief coach C. A. Kuttappa said.