By Manish Raj Masoom

New Delhi: Indian boxer Amit Panghal made the nation proud when he clinched gold at the Asian Games 2018. The 22-year-old Army man stunned Olympic champion Hasanboy Dusmatov 3-2 in the men’s 49kg final, and with it, Panghal became the eighth Indian boxer ever to claim a gold medal at the Asian Games.

In an exclusive interview with MyNation, Panghal got candid about his support group, hard work, his heroes and his road to success.

Panghal’s main motive was to redeem himself against his opponent, Uzbekistan's Dusmatov – 2016 Rio Olympic gold medallist and reigning Asian champion – to whom he had lost in last year’s World Championships.

He took the advice of both his coaches - Santiago Nieva and Anil Dhankar and meticulously planned his every move. Panghal knew that the Olympic champion would compete in his weight category (49kg) and he wasted no time making strategies to avenge his defeat.

In the ring, the first two rounds did not go in complete favour of the 22-year-old. However, desperate on his path of redemption, Panghal put up a counterattacking act in the third bout, slowly draining out his opponent until he beat the world champion at his own game.

Panghal’s game showed off his diligence, a quality he constantly attributes to his coaches.

“Boxing is as much a mental sport as it is a physical one, it’s all in the mind,” Panghal says. 

“My strategy is to keep calm, read the opponent’s body language and gauge his next move,” he adds.

With a hint of vulnerability, Panghal spoke of his early days when he started boxing. His elder brother introduced him to the sport and has, to this day, remained his biggest cheerleader. Panghal’s brother took to boxing himself initially and soon initiated his little brother to the sport. When Panghal proved to have more potential than his elder sibling, the latter left boxing and joined the Army to financially support Panghal. 

“My father was against the sport and thought that I would be better off studying,” he says, “but my brother insisted I follow my dreams”.
When he started to compete in his early days, Panghal was very weak and had previously never dreamt of being a boxer.

“At age 10, I never thought my life would turn out to be like this,” Panghal says unreservedly, thanking his supporters for his fame and success today.

He also speaks fondly of his first role model, Vijender Singh, who won gold in 2010 Commonwealth Boxing Championships.

“I wanted to be like him, and make my family, Rohtak and the whole of India proud,” Panghal said.

Panghal is extremely grateful to the Indian Army and the SAI for the support and motivation they have extended his way. He met Prime Minister Narendra Modi who congratulated him and other athletes of the Indian Army on their service and success.

Panghal’s sensational triumph against the Olympic champion has only got him started on his journey. He plans to clinch gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and is resolute in his aspirations.

“The Cubans, Americans and the Uzbeks would prove tough competition,” he feels, and can’t wait to sit with his coaches to analyse their every move and plan his defence accordingly. He wishes to engage in strength training in America in his days ahead of the 2020 Olympics.