Indian youngster Sanjeet (91kg) pulled off a massive upset, defeating decorated veteran pugilist and Rio Olympic silver medallist Vassiliy Levit in the final of ASBC Asian Championships in Dubai on Monday. Amit Panghal (52kg) and Shiva Thapa (64kg) finished with silved medals.

Overall, the Indian contingent finished wi their best-ever show at the Asian Championships by clinching 15 medals (2 gold, 5 silver, 8 bronze) and bettered previous highest of 13 medals (2 gold, 4 silver and 7 bronze) achieved during the 2019 edition.

Sanjeet stunned Levit by a 4-1 scoreline to clinch India’s second gold medal of the 2021 edition, and the first by a male boxer. Tokyo 2020-bound Pooja Rani had won gold among the women on Sunday.

Second seeded Sanjeet seemed to be just about staying in the bout against Levit, who was chasing his fourth gold medal of the Asian Championships, but appeared confident at the end of three rounds even as the commentators felt the Kazakh star had done enough. The result was met with a little dance by the 23-year-old.

The army man, who is a former India Open gold-medallist, claimed the first two rounds in an evenly-contested bout before Levit fought back in the final three minutes.

Sanjeet had defeated third Tursunov Sanjar of Uzbekistan 5-0. With his opponent getting points deductions in an ill-tempered bout, Sanjeet had registered an unanimous win with a disciplined performance.

Earlier, defending champion and top seed Panghal (52kg) went down in a close final bout to finish with a silver medal at the ASBC Asian Boxing Championships in Dubai on Monday. Thapa (64kg) also won silver after yet another defeat by fine margins. He went down 2-3 against Mongolia’s Baatarsukh Chinzorig.

Panghal was on the wrong side of a 2-3 scoreline against a familiar rival in 2016 Rio Olympics and world champion Zoirov Shakhobidin of Uzbekistan. It was a rematch of the 2019 World Championship final which Zoirov had also won.

There was very little to choose between the two boxers in the end, with one judge even scoring 30-27 overall in favour of Panghal. But the final decision went in favour of Zoirov, who clinched his first gold medal at the event.

The contest lived up to the hype as the boxers engaged in a fast exchange of punches from the very first round. Zoirov claimed the opening round. But in the second round, Panghal raised his game by a notch, evading Zoirov’s range with his pace and landing his left straights precisely. Zoirov, on the other hand, struggled to connect.

The two went all out in the third round but it was Panghal who was more impressive with his body shots despite an injured eye.

The Indian shook his head at the announcement of decision, despite evidently having two better rounds than his opponent, as he finished second best against a boxer who’s likely to challenge him at Tokyo 2020 as well. A 3-2 decision in a bout is eligible for a review, should the losing contingent want to challenge the outcome. The Boxing Federation of India later confirmed that the second round has been contested by them through an official protest but it was not accepted by the jury commission and Panghal finished with the silver medal as per the original decision.

Details about review: 

The bout review system was introduced by AIBA in 2019. The team manager or the head coach of the losing boxer gets 15 minutes after the decision is announced to submit their protest and complete the paperwork for it in the next 30 minutes.

Decisions with scores 5-0 or 4-1 are not reviewable under this system. Each team is allowed up to two failed reviews.

“If the Technical Delegate determines, after consulting the Bout Review Jury, that the protest should be allowed to proceed, the bout will be reviewed by the Jury the Observer, the Referee Evaluator and the Judge Evaluator,” the AIBA had said.

— via PTI

Later on, Thapa faced Asian Games silver medallist Chinzorig of Mongolia. There were five scores of 29-28 across the judges, but crucially three went against the Indian.

Thapa had secured a fifth successive medal at the prestigious event. His first at the event was a gold in 2013, followed by a bronze in 2015, a silver in 2017 and another bronze in 2019.

Thapa had defeated top seed and defending champion Bakhodur Usmonov of Tajikistan 4-0 in the semi final.

India had already assured themselves of a medal in all of the 10 women’s weight divisions, completing their campaign on Sunday with one gold, three silver and six bronze. Pooja Rani (75kg) clinched the solitary gold medal. Mary Kom (51kg), Lalbuatsaihi (64kg) and Anupama (81+kg) secured silver.

Eight Indian pugilists – Simranjit Kaur (60kg), Lovlina Borgohain (69kg), Jaismine (57kg), Sakshi Chaudhary (64kg), Monika (48kg), Saweety (81kg) among women and Vikas Krishan (69kg) and Varinder Singh (60kg) among men – have secured bronze medals with their semi-final finish.

“This has been a challenging year for all of us and despite all the uncertainties our boxers had to undergo, it is absolutely heartening to see them ending the Asian Championships campaign with 15 medals including 2 golds and some close decisions that of Amit Panghal and Mary Kom in the finals,” BFI President Ajay Singh said.

“Our boxers have yet again ensured a record-breaking feat and am extremely proud of each one of them. These performances I am sure will motivate all our boxers to put more efforts ahead of the Olympics and help realise the Mission 2021 by winning medals in Tokyo” he added.

The International Boxing Association, AIBA, has allocated $400,000 prize money for the on-going Championships. The gold medallists of men’s and women’s categories will be awarded with $10,000 while both the silver and bronze medal winners will take home $5,000 and $2,500 respectively.

(With PTI inputs)