Amit Panghal had a lot to prove and there’s no better way to do that than in the ring. On Sunday, Panghal gave a brilliant display to upset 48kg world champion Sanzhar Tashkenbay of Kazakhstan 5-0 to win the flyweight (51kg) gold at the Strandja Memorial boxing tournament in Bulgaria.
Panghal dominated the final from start to finish as he capped off a stellar week at the prestigious event. Throughout the tournament, he looked determined to seal the top prize and beat all four opponents by unanimous verdict.
Though Panghal will not be part of the Olympic qualifiers in Italy later this month, having lost to Deepak Bhoria in the selection process, this victory will keep the fire burning in him. India is yet to win a Paris Olympics quota in flyweight division and if Deepak fails to grab the opportunity in Italy, Panghal will be in the fray for the last Olympic qualifier in May.
This was Tokyo Olympian Panghal’s first big win since his 2022 Commonwealth Games gold in Birmingham, after which he has lost to Deepak twice at home and missed out on Asian Games too.
Panghal was busy from the first round and kept up his attack against Sanzhar, the world champion in 48kg class. Punching with speed and accuracy, Panghal kept Sanzhar on the backfoot and kept the tempo high for all three rounds.
In 57kg, Sachin won a close final against Uzbekistan’s Shakhzod Muzafarov 3-2. Sachin fought back well in the second and third rounds, connecting his punches well.
However, world champion Nikhat Zareen was unlucky to lose the final 2-3 against Uzbekistan’s Sabina Bobokulova. Nikhat lost the close first round with four judges giving it to the Uzbek boxer. Nikhat came back hard in the second round and a powerful left hook saw Sabina lose her balance. The Indian was relentless in her attack then on. She took the third round 5-0, but in the overall scoring, three judges were in favour of Sabina while two gave the bout to Nikhat, one of them scoring 30-27 for the Indian.
The tournament is the start of Nikhat’s preparations for the Paris Olympics and she would be looking to take the positives from the defeat.
Arundhati Choudhary (66kg) also produced an impressive performance against China’s Asian Games gold medallist Liu Yang but fell just short of victory. Liu won the final 4-1. Arundhati’s power-packed punches rattled the Chinese in the second round but she came back and used the long range to throw some quick punches.
Barun Singh Shagolshem (48kg) lost 0-4 to Khodzhiev Anvarzhan of Kyrgyzstan in the final. Rajat (67kg) went down to Kazakhstan’s Bekbauov Dulat 3-2 in a close fight.