In September this year, Amit Panghal became the first Indian male boxer to win a silver medal at the World Boxing Championships, held in Ekaterinburg, Russia.
The flyweight pugilist — who rose to the No 1 spot in the world rankings recently — exudes a lot of confidence post the achievement.
Ask him about the debacle at the World Military Games in October — he failed to win a medal against a relatively easier pool of opponents — and Panghal brushes off the doubts some might have about his form.
"One shouldn't read too much into it. I have beaten that Mongolian boxer, whom I lost to in the quarter-finals, in the past. It was just an off day for me so I'm not too worried about it," says Panghal rather nonchalantly.
The 24-year-old continues to work on the game-plan devised post his finals loss at the World Championships.
He lost that match to Shakhobidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan 5-0 in the flyweight category (52 kg). Evident in that loss was Panghal's failure to negate his lack of reach and height, as compared to his opponent who was taller than him.
Panghal, who stands at 5'2", attests to the same, also talking about what he's doing to ensure that his height doesn't prove to be a disadvantage in the future.
"I'm sparring with taller guys now and working on increasing the power in my punches."
"My coaches have also added a lot of fruits and liquid nutrition to my diet so that I don't tire easily."
Panghal certainly needs to keep tiredness at bay. The workload of Indian boxers will be strenuous, up until the Olympic qualifiers in February, which will be held in Wuhan, China.
Currently, most of the boxers, rookies and veterans are fighting in the inaugural edition of the Big Bout Indian Boxing League, which is being held in Noida and Delhi.
Once the league winds up on 21 December, the boxers will have just a weak to prepare for the trials for Olympic qualifiers.
Panghal though has already sealed his place in the qualifiers in Wuhan, owing to his second-place finish at the Worlds this year.
When asked if competing in the boxing league is putting a dampener on his preparations for the qualifiers, Panghal clarifies: "It helps me get match practice. In the league, there are very good international boxers from heavyweight boxing nations like Uzbekistan."
"A double Asian Games gold medallist is fighting here. So, what I'm getting in this league, in terms of experience, is invaluable," he says.
There will be more of that in store for Panghal come January. Exposure to the best international practices in boxing has long been a demand of the Indian contingent.
Now, the Boxing Federation of India (BFI) seems to have made some progress on that front.
The Australian boxing team has confirmed to a training stint in Patiala with their Indian counterparts in January. Boxers from some other countries could visit too.
However, there are concerns whether such athletes' training programs with other countries are inimical to one's interests.
Some fear that training and sparring with an opponent one is likely to meet in international competitions amounts to giving away one's strengths and weaknesses.
But Panghal is quick to rubbish those claims. "If they are getting to know our playing style, then so are we. These sessions work because both sides realise that it's a mutually beneficial deal."
"Moreover, it's always better if we spar with boxers from other countries in our backyard, rather than go and play exhibitions for match practice, as being on the road can be physically exhausting," says Panghal matter-of-factly.
Even as his days continue to stretch on in the boxing ring with the Olympic year right around the corner, Panghal manages to find time for causes he believes strongly in.
One of those causes is Adani Group's Garv Hain initiative, a long-term incubation programme which supports 20 athletes across senior and youth categories, in their quest to win medals for India at multi-sporting events such as the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and the Olympics.
Panghal, who's a Naib Subedar in the Indian Army, is visibly thrilled about the cause he supports beyond the ring.
"Every athlete needs financial assistance and the Adani group is providing that. So, I am thrilled to be a part of this initiative," he signs off.
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Updated Date: Jan 09, 2020 21:19:00 IST