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Thursday, June 17, 2021

Asian Boxing Championships: Amit Panghal goes down 3-2 in dodgy split decision to Zoirov

The 3-2 split decision loss means Amit Panghal has now lost all three bouts against Uzbek rival Shakobidin Zoirov.

Written by Gaurav Bhatt | Delhi |
Updated: June 1, 2021 1:48:17 pm
Amit Panghal goes down 3-2 in a dodgy split decision to Uzbek Zoirov (Source: Panghal/Twitter)

Amit Panghal lost the Asian Championships final despite three out of five judges scoring the last two rounds for him. That such scorelines aren’t an anomaly but the norm is what makes the 10-point must system so bewildering.

The 3-2 split decision loss means Panghal has now lost all three bouts against Uzbek rival Shakobidin Zoirov. His dismissive, “of course” head shake, however, told the story. Even the previous defeat, in Russia last month, wasn’t as one-sided as the 5-0 scoreline suggested.

“This time Amit deserved the decision,” an exasperated High-Performance director Santiago Nieva told The Indian Express. “The second round was pretty clear (for Amit). The third round was closer but still in our favour. Even the first was close.”

Panghal’s Twitter account had already dedicated the silver to the Indian youth and his childhood coach Anil Dhankar, before the Indian team, expectedly, lodged a protest against the decision.

According to the rules, the team manager or the head coach of the losing boxer gets 15 minutes after the decision is announced to submit their protest, and complete the paperwork for it in the next 30 minutes. Only decisions with 3-2 scoreline can be reviewed.

The Indian contingent had already seen the system work when Sakshi Chaudhary’s win had already been overturned in favour of Kazakh world champion Dina Zholaman. On Monday, the team’s protest was not accepted by the jury.

Using stature to advantage

He failed to defend the continental title, but Panghal’s performance against the reigning Olympic and World champion should be a massive boost to his confidence this close to the Tokyo Games.

The ‘take it slow’ strategy is firmly on the backburner. Like their previous meeting in April, Panghal came out trading with Zoirov. The Uzbek’s combinations, however, were crisper and longer, catching Panghal at the end of most exchanges. Panghal struggled to find the range for most of the three minutes but it was still the closest opening round between the two; the first time a judge scored it for the Indian.

It was the second round where Panghal, short for the flyweight division, turned his stature to his advantage. He still lunged in to scrap, but swayed and ducked, leaving Zoirov punching the air.

By changing the level, getting inside and crouching under Zoirov’s punches, Panghal’s overhand left — that looping weapon that has come to define his in-ring style — changed too. If it didn’t find the face, it got Zoirov’s torso on the way down. There was a lot more bodywork by both boxers, but Panghal’s gameplan seemed to work better.

The right hook was another revelation. Panghal feinted down and went to the head with his lead hook.

“Left to the body, right to the head,” was Nieva’s instruction after the first round.

Panghal hit back in the second round and rode on the momentum in the third. The overhand left was now followed by straight rights to the face, staggering Zoirov. And when the Uzbek moved in, cheeky check hooks put an end to that.

In the end, the contest was decided by the slimmest of margins. When asked what could have worked in Zoirov’s favour according to the judges, Nieva said: “He has fast punches, good pressure. He is active. But clearly, the cleaner punches were landed by Amit.”

Their rivalry may read 3-0 in the Uzbek’s favour, but on Monday, Panghal was the better boxer. There’s no protesting that.

Sanjeet snaps gold

Shiva Thapa suffered a 3-2 defeat in the 64kg final to Asian Games silver medallist Mongolia’s Baatarsukh Chinzorig. The two-time Olympian previously won gold in 2013, silver in 2017 and two bronze in 2015 and 2019. In the 91kg final, Sanjeet stunned the three-time Asian champion Vassiliy Levit 4-1, taking India’s tally to two gold, five silver and eight bronze; an improvement on the tally of 13 medals achieved in 2019.

Nieva believes the performance shows Indians are back on the track.

“It has been tough for everybody, not only the boxers who suffered Covid. Even among the girls, you could see that some of them were in top shape. Not only because of Covid weakening them but also lack of sparring, being in quarantine and no proper training,” Nieva said on Sunday. “This was difficult to deal with, and that’s why it was so important to come here and get some proper matches. They are back on track and now we focus on the Olympics.”

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