India registered it’s best-ever showing in the continental competition with 15 medals.
The 31st edition of the ASBC Asian Elite Boxing Championships proved to be a memorable event for the Indian boxers. The tournament which was initially scheduled to be held in Delhi was relocated to Dubai owing to the ongoing pandemic situation in India.
The Indian boxers secured a record 15 medals in total, which consisted of two gold, five silver and eight bronze medals. This is the nation’s best-ever showing in the prestigious competition, having previously claimed 13 medals in 2019 in Bangkok.
While several Olympic-bound boxers impressed at the Le Meridien Dubai Hotel & Conference Centre with medals, a couple of others also caught the eye with their stunning displays. We take a look at the top five boxers from this year’s tournament:
5. Mary Kom
The iconic Indian boxer came into the competition with high hopes as usual. Having been out of action, Mary Kom was taking part in just her second event since the lockdown. The 38-year-old kept her calm and used all her experience in the semi-finals, overcoming Mongolia’s Lutsaikhan Altantsetseg.
However, she would face a stiffer challenge against two-time world champion Nazym Kyzaibay of Kazakhstan in the final. Mary executed sharp counter-attacks to win the opening round. However, from there on she wasn’t able to gain a foothold in the contest. The Indian legend eventually suffered a 2-3 split decision loss and had to settle for silver.
This was Mary’s second silver medal having bagged five gold medals over the years. The country is hoping that she can now go one better in Tokyo, in what will be her second-ever Olympics campaign. The London 2012 bronze medalist will hope to end on a high in her swansong on the game’s grandest stage.
4. Shiva Thapa
Shiva Thapa had a fine outing at the recently concluded event. He travelled to Dubai with the determination to remind everyone of his abilities, having failed to clinch a Tokyo berth. Thapa began strongly, outpunching Kuwait’s Nader Obah 5-0 in the quarter-finals.
The boy from Assam continued his brilliant run, when he sent defending champion Bakhodor Usmanov of Tajikistan home after a 4-0 victory. Thapa locked horns with Mongolia’s Baatarsukh Chinzorig in the 64kg final. However, he too suffered a 2-3 split decision loss at the hands of his opponent.
This was Thapa’s fifth successive podium finish in the competition and his second silver overall. In addition, he has two bronze and a gold medal in the Asian Boxing Championships. The boxer also became one of only two men to become five-time medallists in the competition. However, the emergence of Manish Kaushik in the same weight category means Shiva Thapa can only cheer on his compatriots from back home when the Tokyo Olympics get underway.
3. Amit Panghal
The 25-year-old is one of India’s biggest medal prospects in Tokyo. The defending champion in the 52kg weight category lived up to his reputation, beating Enkhmandakh Kharkhuu of Mongolia 3-2 in the quarters. He then produced a commanding display against Kazakhstan’s Saken Bibossinov to reach the final.
Panghal’s opponent in the summit clash was reigning Olympic and World champion Shakhobidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan. He would go on to suffer a heartbreaking 2-3 split decision loss when it seemed he had done enough to clinch victory. The Indian boxing contingent lodged an official protest against the verdict, but it turned out to be an unsuccessful one.
Amit Panghal later tweeted to dedicate his silver medal for the Indian youths and his coach Anil Dhankhar. He also asked for the continued support of sports minister Kiren Rijiju. This was Panghal’s third loss in succession to Zoirov. The Uzbek boxer has become a nemesis for the Indian. In Tokyo, Amit Panghal will be aiming to overcome all hurdles and clinch a coveted medal for his country.
2. Pooja Rani
Pooja Rani was the only Indian women boxer to clinch gold at the Asian Boxing Championships. She dismantled Uzbekistan’s Mavluda Mavlonova in the final by a scoreline of 5-0. In doing so, she defended her 75kg title.
Rani showed great sharpness and tactical brilliance and put pressure on her opponent with timely punches. She continued her relentless attack and left no chance for her Uzbek counterpart to fight back, going on to complete a comprehensive win.
This was the Olympic-bound boxer’s fourth medal overall at the Asian Championships, adding to her gold in 2019, silver in 2012, and a bronze in 2015. The 30-year-old from the Bhiwani district of Haryana will now be buzzing with confidence ahead of her debut Olympics campaign.
1. Sanjeet Kumar
Not many fancied Sanjeet Kumar’s chances when he was slated to face Kazakhstan’s Vassiliy Levit in the final of the 91kg weight category. Levit is a Rio 2016 silver-medalist and three-time Asian Championships gold medalist.
The Army man, who is a former India Open gold medalist, wasn’t fazed by the stature of his more illustrious opponent. Sanjeet showed immense resolve to win the first two rounds before Levit fought back in the final three minutes. However, it proved to be too little too late for Levit as Sanjeet claimed a stunning 4-1 victory on the night. In doing so, the pugilist secured India’s second gold of the tournament.
Unfortunately, Sanjeet is another of those who will not be in action at the Tokyo Olympics. However, the headlines rightly belong to him after a victory that will surely spur him on in the future.