CHENNAI: History beckons Indian boxing. The men’s team have a great chance of registering their best show at Asian Championships, after four booked their finals spot on Thursday.
Asian Games champ Amit Panghal (52kg) asserted his class to enter the summit match. Debutant Ashish Kumar (75kg) displayed maturity beyond his years to keep up his dream run while Kavinder Singh Bisht (56kg) also put up a brave fight. Deepak Singh (49kg) didn’t have to throw a single punch as he got his second successive walkover.
If the remaining four can secure at least one gold, they will surpass India’s best effort that was recorded 10 years ago in Zhuhai, China. India had won one gold, two silver and four bronze to finish fifth.
It should be noted that India have secured three bronze already, apart from the guaranteed gold or silver from the remaining finalists. Shiva Thapa, who had become first Indian male boxer to win four successive medals, settled for bronze after a hard fight on Thursday. Ashish (69kg) and veteran Satish Kumar (+91kg) were the other bronze winners. The latter was forced to hand walkover due to an injury. Being in this position is a welcome one for the men’s team, and the man who has been made an impact on Indian boxing since his arrival two summers ago is high performance director Santiago Nieva. “It’s unbelievable. There were some very strong nations including hosts Thailand. This has been fantastic so far,” he told this newspaper from Bangkok.
All three boxers had to sweat, winning by split verdicts. “At this level of the competition, everything is close.”
Ashish had a slow start before imposing himself. The 24-year-old had a good plan. “I was trying to be watchful at the start, trying to make sense of my opponent’s game. After that, I went for attacks and counter-attacks.”
With one bout left, Nieva and Ashish know that they still have a lot to do. “I have full faith in my abilities and I shall give my best,” Ashish declared.
Simranjit Kaur (64 kg) and Pooja Rani (75kg) were the two female boxers to match Panghal & Co. Last year’s World Championship silver medallist Sonia Chahal’s (57kg) run was cut short in the semis. She lost by a split verdict against Thailand’s Nilwan Techasuep. Five-time winner L Sarita Devi suffered same fate. Coach Mohammed Ali Qamar rued the verdicts for Sonia and Sarita. “They’d edged their opponents but the judges clearly didn’t agree. It’s a big blow. They deserved to be in the final.”