An eight-month break from competition did not make a difference to Indian ace boxer Amit Panghal's fortunes. Picking up from where he left off, the Asian Games champion clinched a gold medal at the Alexis Vastine International Boxing Tournament in Nantes, France last month.
The pugilist, who created history in 2019, when he became the first Indian to take a silver medal from the AIBA Men's World Boxing Championships, looked in fine fettle. The Olympic medal hopeful was sharp in his 2-1 win over Christopher Herrera, and 3-0 blanking of Rene Abraham, as he became one of the three Indians to take gold at this tournament.
The performance was crucial in their preparation for next year's Tokyo Olympics, as Indian pugilists got a chance to assess their level. Training took a hit in the initial weeks of lockdown, but the fact that he had still been able to maintain his fitness level made the 25-year-old Amit Panghal pretty satisfied.
"I am very happy with my level and performance, considering I played in a competitive match after a long time. And I was able to assess my level as well. I am quite satisfied to see that I have been able to maintain my fitness levels and skills since the lockdown," said Amit Panghal from Italy during an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda.
The Indian boxers were last seen in action at the Olympic Qualifiers in Jordan in March, where the contingent secured a record haul of nine quotas for the mega-quadrennial Games. When asked if he had any jittery nerves to deal with on entering the ring for a competition after such a long time, the fearless Amit Panghal stressed that the opponent never bothered him.
"I had no tension facing the opponent. My main concern was to see where I stand and I am glad to see my level remains exactly where it was before the lockdown," Amit Panghal said.
We have all improved a lot: Amit Panghal
Graduating from one weight category to another is never easy and the diminutive pugilist has no qualms in admitting that he lacked in power on coming to 52 kg from 49 kg. With taller and more powerful boxers dominating his current weight category, Panghal immediately understood that he needed to build on his power if he wanted to make India proud in Tokyo.
That has been his sole focus during the 52-day Europe training trip that he is currently on.
"I am focusing mainly on a couple of things during my training in Europe – my reach and power. I had felt I was lacking in power when I changed my weight category so I needed to work on it more."
With COVID-19 safety protocols preventing the use of sparring partners at the training camp in Patiala, their current training base in Assisi, Italy gave the boxers what they missed. Training with the Italian national team boxers has helped the Indians grow in confidence and add to their game, something that was evident in their performances in Nantes last week.
Amit Panghal, the reigning No. 1 in 52 kg, believes this training stint has helped all of them to improve and remain on track to reach their peak at the Olympics next year.
"I am really enjoying my training in Italy so far. We faced some restrictions in India so could not train freely. Sparring wasn’t allowed so full training was never possible which we are doing here. We are getting to gauge our level against Italian national team boxers here and it has been very helpful. I feel we have all improved a lot," said Amit Panghal.
The Indian boxers will be in Italy till December 5. Whether they will be able to take part in any other competition in the remainder of their European sojourn will be confirmed in a few days.Published 07 Nov 2020, 22:51 IST