CHENNAI : Indians beating world or Olympic champions is uncommon, be it in any sport. Two Indians achieving that on the same day is unthinkable! That’s what boxers Amit Panghal and Kavinder Singh Bisht did, slaying giants of the business in the ongoing Asian Championships, in Bangkok on Monday. High performance director Santiago Nieva, who witnessed both the hits up close, understands the significance of the duo’s performances. “They are from two of the strongest nations. Both Amit and Kavinder did exceptionally well. It’s time to enjoy the moment,” Nieva told this newspaper.
Amit got the better of Rio Olympic champ Hasanboy Dusmatov 4-1 to march into the semis and assure at least a bronze. Incidentally, this was the Haryana boxer’s second straight victory over his rival from Uzbekistan, proving that his Asian Games win was no fluke. In fact, that victory had added to his belief and he had entered the bout with plenty of confidence. “I was quite confident this time. I knew if I put my best foot forward, I can beat him by a higher margin,” Amit, who’s competing in the 52kg category for the first time, said.
Amit may be on a roll but his success has come after a couple of blows in the past. In his debut year (2017), he had lost twice against Dusmatov. The latter had beaten the armyman in this very competition, going on to clinch gold and had also trumped him during the World Championships (Hamburg) later that year.
“The fact that Amit is beating him for the second time gives us extra joy. It only proves that his victory during the Asian Games was not a one-off,” Nieva said. “Amit did have the psychological edge but he still had to deliver. He read Dusmatov well, both from the outside and inside,” he added.Before Amit, it was Kavinder who had stunned world champ Kairat Yeraliyev of Kazakhstan in the morning session by a split verdict (3-2).
It was a much-needed boost for the boxer from Uttarakhand, who had endured a tough 2018. After much reflection, he had shifted to a higher weight category (from 52kg to 56kg) and was under pressure to make it count. There were question marks if he could make the cut. The 24-year-old, who had won gold in an international meet in Finland last month, has definitely done that. This is also his first major medal.
“I was not concerned about his (Yeraliyev’s) track record. I was just focussed on myself. This is my first major tournament in the new weight category and I had to prove myself. I’m happy with my performance,” Kavinder said. That focus was visible for Nieva to see. The coach revealed that his ward was tactically stronger on the day. “He is small for a 56kg-boxer. But he has proved that he has the tactical nous to outbox opponents who are much bigger than him.”Gold medals for both would be icing on the cake.