Panghal takes lessons from Zoirov loss

Though disappointed and aggrieved at being denied a gold medal at the recently concluded Asian Boxing Championships in Dubai, Amit Panghal has vowed to leave no stone unturned to ensure he never has to face such a situation again.

Amit Panghal in action during his final bout against Uzbekistan’s Shakobhidin Zoirov at the ASBC Asian Boxing Championships in Dubai. “I honestly felt I had won the bout,” said Panghal after the final.   -  PTI

Amit Panghal likes to let his punches do the talking. He’s not one to dwell on the “what ifs”, or go on the defensive and make excuses — his only solution is to further better his craft.

Panghal was denied a gold medal at the recently concluded Asian Boxing Championships in Dubai as he lost to the 2016 Rio Olympics gold medalist Shakhobidin Zoirov in the 52kg final. The controversial bout, which the Indian dominated in rounds two and three, went Zoirov’s way as the judges awarded him the tie 3-2.

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Though disappointed and aggrieved, Panghal has vowed to leave no stone unturned to ensure he never has to face such a situation again.

“I honestly felt I had won the bout. I went on the aggressive from the first round and knew that the second and third would go my way, which it did. But I still did not win. Now I will train so hard that I will emerge the clear winner and there won’t be any room for doubt or error. It will never come down to this,” the 25-year-old told Sportstar from his house in Maina, Haryana.

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Panghal, who is India’s best hope for a boxing medal at the Tokyo Olympics, also noted that he had put on a much better show against Zoirov — the reigning world champion. Panghal had lost 5-0 when the two faced off at the 2019 World Boxing Championships.

“It was a good experience to face him (in the run-up to the Olympics). I have faced him earlier and this bout was much better. I feel if I face him again I will be even better and will definitely beat him,” he said.

“I have improved a lot and it is there for everyone to see. I have worked on my right punches and my movement, and it is visible. I used to start the first round a little late earlier, but I started more aggressively this time. It feels good that I have improved and will build on it going ahead so that I can get the better of opponents like Zoirov,” he added.

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Even Zoirov earnestly noted the improvement in Panghal’s game. “It was a fantastic contest today, I enjoyed it so much. Amit was much better than last time, therefore I had to keep my full concentration until the last second. I know that it was not our last meeting and I am expecting that he will be even stronger next time. I made it, and it was an important success for me,” he told the AIBA website.

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Panghal will spend time with his family and recover from his injuries, including a cut on his right eyebrow that he sustained in the final, before joining the national camp in Patiala to train under his childhood coach Anil Dhankar.

“I feel all the recent improvements I have made have come from training with him. He has been with me since I was 12 and he knows my game the best,” he says of his coach.

Panghal feels he needs to work on his endurance and punching combinations, but adds that his coach will have identified more scope for improvement.

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“My coach will identify the nitty-gritty aspects and we will work on it. I need to dominate bouts and also work on my combinations. He will have more ideas. He notices every tiny detail.

“Where I got hit, how to escape the punch, my stamina levels, my endurance, where to apply power — he analyses all of this within a minute and I have never understood till date how he does it. He instantly comes up with counterattack strategies as well! This has made a big difference in my game. Whether I see a flaw or not, but he notices them and ensures we work on it,” he added.

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While Dhankar was not allowed to be at Panghal’s corner of the ring at the Asian Championships, he hopes he will be able to accompany him to Japan for the Olympics. “It will be a big boost if he is with me. I will be able to compete with a supreme level of confidence and will be able to defeat the likes of Zoirov easily. If not, then I want him with me at least till the Olympics.”

For now, Panghal is relaxed. He’s back home and has the rare luxury of gorging on home-cooked food. “I got back yesterday and mummy made churma, my favourite. I am allowed to eat everything now for 2-3 days, ghar pe jo bhi mil jaega woh hi lapet lenge (I’ll gobble up whatever I get at home),” he admits with a sheepish smile.