India created history in the AIBA Men’s Boxing World Championships, winning two medals – a silver and a bronze – at Ekaterinburg and that marked their best-ever performance in the event.
Amit Panghal, whose steady rise has been one one of the biggest stories of Indian boxing in recent times, became the first Indian man to win silver.
Panghal can take heart from the fact that he had champion Shakhobidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan on the ropes in the final, in which he was adjudged the runner-up. Like the Asian Games final against Hasanboy Dusmatov, Panghal wasn’t fazed by the prospect of going toe to toe with an Olympic champion. The outcome could have been different but as it stands, India’s search for a first men’s world champion continues.
Manish Kaushik, with his agility and technical ability, was a sight to behold. The 23-year-old had a dream run and became India’s fifth bronze medallist in the event’s history. Kaushik had his task cut out and had to defeat Shiva Thapa in the trials to qualify for the event, a task he accomplished with aplomb. He was found wanting in the semi-final against the world No 1 from Cuba but that is a bridge that has proved tough to cross for many an Indian boxer before. Kaushik, undoubtedly, showed he has the talent to rise to the top.
Like Panghal, Kaushik is also an automatic pick in the Olympic qualifiers early next year.
India at the 2019 Boxing Worlds
|Amit Panghal||52kg||Silver Medal|
|Kavinder Singh Bisht||57kg||Quarter-finals|
|Manish Kaushik||63kg||Bronze medal|
|Duryodhan Singh Negi||69kg||Second round|
|Ashish Kumar||75kg||Second round|
|Brijesh Yadav||81kg||Second round|
|Satish Kumar||+91kg||First round|
India had as many as four quarter-finallists during the tournament’s run, a joint highest, having achieved the feat in the 2015 event in Qatar as well. Four years ago, the four boxers in the last-eight were Shiva Thapa, who finished with a bronze, as well as Satish Kumar, Manoj Kumar and Sumit Sanghwan.
In Ekaterinburg, India’s lineup of quarter-finallists were Panghal, Kavinder Singh Bisht, Sanjeet and Kaushik. It was agonising for Bisht, who bowed out of the last-eight stage for a second consecutive time. But for the likes of veteran Satish Kumar, Ashish Kumar and Brijesh Yadav, it was a tournament to forget. Duryodhan Singh Negi showed early promise but the reigning national champion exited in the second round. Sanjeet held his own and was impressive in his own right in the 91kg, a weight category where India have traditionally fallen short. The Services boxer also reached the quarter-finals.
Indian medal winners at boxing Worlds
Ekaterinburg, thus, marked the first time in Indian boxing history where two Indian men finished on the podium at the Worlds.
It must be noted that in the 2009 event in Milan, Vijender Singh was the top seed in his weight category. Not reaching the final was a major disappointment for the Olympic medal winner but he still managed to put India on the map at the Championships, becoming the first pugilist to stand on the podium.
Vikas Krishan followed suit a couple of years later. After returning empty handed from Almaty, Kazakhstan, the Indian contingent bounced back by unearthing a gem of a talent in Shiva Thapa at the 2015 event in Doha. In 2017, India unearthed a relatively unknown quantity in bantamweight Gaurav Bidhuri, who clinched bronze. Debilitating injuries and indifferent form has since gone on to haunt the Delhi-based boxer.
With a silver, Panghal has now put himself on the international map and once he gets there, will be one of athletes to watch out for in Tokyo 2020. As of now, it’s a step in the right direction for the Indians with their best-ever tally and giving the best in the business a serious scare.