The Paths to Ekatrinburg for Amit Panghal and Manish Kaushik began with a silver apiece at last year’s Commonwealth Games, and soon diverged wildly.
Panghal owned the 49kg with an Asian Games gold, moved up to the Olympic category of 52kg for the Asian Championships and won another gold. Kaushik found himself as second-best to Shiva Thapa, losing the 60 and 63kg trials for the aforementioned continental events, along with the India Open gold, to the two-time Olympian.
“The good thing is if domestically the competition is so fierce, a boxer is ready for tough international events,” Kaushik said before leaving for Russia, having booked the Worlds ticket with a timely win over Thapa in the July trials. “The ups and downs can get tough, but you need to remember your desire to succeed as a boxer.”
On Wednesday, the triumphs coincided again, as Panghal and Kaushik won their quarterfinals to assure themselves of a medal each and India of its best result at the men’s World Championship. Panghal defeated Filipino Carlo Paalam 4-1 and Kaushik beat Brazil’s Wanderson de Oliveira 5-0; wins achieved in similar fashion too as the two bested bigger opponents.
Panghal started slowly against Paalam, in a cagey first round which began with the Filipino swinging. The Indian was out-punched and countered on most advances.
“Paalam started the bout very strong,” says high performance director Santiago Nieva. “He was physically stronger and bigger than Amit, and of course knew his game from their meeting in the Asian Games semifinal.”
A strong finish
“In the first break, the feeling was that I hadn’t hit many punches,” Panghal said. “But that’s the thing about boxing nowadays, you can catch up if you finish strong.”
Reminded that he was most probably trailing after the first round, Panghal stepped on the pedal in the second, landing clearer combinations, and finished with a stinging overhand right. While Panghal increased the pressure, Paalam grew sloppier and missed most attacks in the deciding round.
Kaushik, meanwhile, was too good for his Brazilian opponent and earned his fourth straight flawless win. Despite giving inches in reach, Kaushik stayed on the outside, slipping and punishing Wanderson with rights to the body and feigning the jab to rip lead hooks.
“By my count, he had almost 20 shots to the opponent’s body,” says Nieva. “Manish has had a tough draw and has beaten good opponents. He is landing such clear shots and his opponents don’t seem to find him.”
“There was pressure on me. After winning three bouts, I didn’t want to return empty-handed from here,” says Kaushik. “After the bout, I spoke with Amit and the fact that it is the first time that two Indians have reached the semi-finals in world championships is a big motivation for us.”
The two would need all the motivation and confidence they can muster for the semifinals, where Panghal will take on Kazakhstan’s Saken Bibossinov, who stunned European gold-medallist Artur Hovhannisyan, and Kaushik will take on world champion Andy Gomez Cruz.
In the other two quarterfinals, Sanjeet (91kg) and Asian silver-medallist Kavinder Singh Bisht (57kg) lost to Julio Castillo Torres and reigning Commonwealth Games champion Peter McGrail respectively.