Amit Panghal: Walking tall among taller opponents

Now, I feel like I can beat any top boxer in the world, says the World Championships silver medallist.

“I am very happy to have claimed a silver medal for the country in the World Championships. For me, it is more important that my coach, Anil Dhankar, should get an award. That will make me even happier and give me a lot of fulfilment,” says Amit Panghal.   -  PTI

Amit Panghal — the first Indian male boxer to win a silver medal at the World Championships in Ekaterinburg, Russia — not only spearheaded the country’s most successful campaign at the elite event, but also raised India’s hopes of a boxing medal in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

As he prepares for the Asian Olympic qualifiers in Wuhan, China, in February, and then for the Olympics, the 23-year-old Amit, who competes in the 52kg class, looks at the positives and shortcomings in his performance in the World Championships, while trying to emerge as a better boxer. Panghal took some time out from his busy schedule to speak to Sportstar about his World Championships campaign, the road ahead and other things.

Excerpts:

How do you look back at your World Championships performance, where you became the first Indian male boxer to bag a silver medal?

This is the best competition of my life so far and I learnt a lot from this event. I made history for the country. Because of the high level of performance I gave, I have grown in confidence and it is going to help me when I complete in future tournaments. Now, I feel like I can beat any top boxer in the world.

What happened in the final? Did you make some mistakes or was the opponent stronger?

The opponent was very tough, a Rio Olympics champion. I had some issues owing to which I could not do as well as I wanted to. I have to improve in some areas, like I need to work on my power and my reach so that I can become better for future challenges.

Tell us something about your style of landing overhead punches?

Most of my opponents are taller than me. I train accordingly and have gotten used to boxing with taller rivals. My balance and eye lines are quite set against such boxers. My left hook and overhead shots are good because I practise them a lot. Since I box against taller boxers, such shots give a clear view to the judges and help me score. I don’t follow any boxer; everyone has his own style. My inspiration is the current unified lightweight champion professional boxer, Vasyl Lomachenko, a two-time world and Olympic champion from Ukraine. I watch his bouts, but my game is different from his.

Now that you have grown in stature, will there be pressure of expectation?

There is no pressure for me because I have been performing well and gaining experience and increasing my confidence. I will use these to do even better in future events, including the Olympics.

You had a tough period during a doping suspension. What have you learnt from that and are you handling yourself with more care?

Earlier, I did not know anything about it (the need to be careful and not take medicines randomly). I committed the mistake due to my ignorance. Now if I get fever or have some other issues, I inform the doctor and take the right kind of medicines.

You have said that Anil Dhankar, your coach, should receive an award. You also deserve a national award for your performance, but may not get one because of the stipulation related to doping. Do you think the Union sports ministry should have a relook at the rules and regulations of the Arjuna and the Khel Ratna Awards?

If such a thing happens, it will be very nice. I will be happy. Otherwise also I am very happy to have claimed a silver medal for the country in the World Championships. For me, it is more important that my coach should get an award. That will make me even happier and give me a lot of fulfilment.

Apart from preparing for bouts and competing, you stay busy by assisting other boxers prepare. What is the reason? Did you do something like that in the World Championships as well?

I try to help every boxer who represents our country so that he can do well. And if someone does well and wins a medal, then it becomes a matter of pride for everyone. I tried to help every boxer of our country in the World Championships as well.

How do you rate the overall showing of the country’s boxers at the World Championships and what does it mean for Indian boxing?

We are doing extremely well and will give much-improved performances in the future. Had there been an Olympic quota at the World Championships, I am sure at least four to five boxers would have qualified. This kind of performance has boosted our confidence and we can do well in the Olympic qualifiers and the Tokyo Olympics.