Feature

Indian Boxing in 2019: Historic feats and Olympic optimism

Mary Kom won her eighth World Championship title this year, while Amit Panghal’s Asian Championship gold took him a step closer to Tokyo 2020

By Saurabh Shankar ·

It couldn’t have been a better pre-Olympic year for Indian boxing as 2019 witnessed as many as 15 pugilists qualifying for the Olympic Games.

Indian boxers’ feats may have flown a bit under the radar, overshadowed by the badminton and hockey team’s successes, but they were by no means small. Here’s a glimpse at Indian boxing’s highlights from the past year:

Kom-pany for Mary

Bronze medallist at the London 2012 Olympics, MC Mary Kom continued to show her class at the 2019 World Championships in Ulan Ude. She claimed a bronze medal after beating Ingrit Valencia and Jutamas Jitpong. It was her record eighth medal at the World Championships, which now includes six golds. To put this in context, the next best boxer in the world has six medals.

The 2019 World Championships will also be remembered for three other pugilists. Jamuna Boro, Lovlina Borgohain and Manju Rani finished on the podium in their respective weight categories in Ulan Ude, with Rani narrowly missing out on a gold. This says much about a bright future for the nation’s boxers, with Mary Kom in the twilight of her career.

Borgohain and Kom performed brilliantly in the recently concluded BFI trials as well, sealing their spots in their respective weight categories for the Olympic qualifier event in February, 2020.

Panghal packs a punch

Amit Panghal has been around India’s boxing scene for a few years now, but 2019 was when the young pugilist truly made his mark on the global stage. His first glory moment came at the 2019 Asian Championships in Bangkok, where he was dominant in the final against South Korea’s Kim Inkyu, winning it 5-0. It was Panghal’s second gold medal of the year, with the first yellow metal coming at the Strandja Memorial Tournament. 

The 24-year-old managed to better his own standards a few months on, as he became the first Indian male boxer to reach the final of the World Championships. He fell in the final to reigning Olympic champion Shakhobidin Zoirov, but Panghal’s commanding performance at the Worlds firmly put the global spotlight on him. 

Panghal continued to shine at the inaugural edition of the Big Bout League, remaining undefeated throughout the competition and captaining his side Gujarat Giants to a title win. He is currently the top-ranked pugilist in the flyweight category and will be among the favourites to claim an Olympic quota place through the qualifier event in February 2020.

Manish Kaushik (right) won a bronze medal at the 2019 AIBA World Championships

Besides Panghal, India’s lightweight category expert Manish Kaushik also had a good year, as he won a bronze at the World Championships in Yekaterinburg, while Kavinder Singh Bisht, Shiva Thapa and Ashish Kumar were among the medals at the Asian Championships.

The men’s boxing trials for Olympics Qualifiers, which were held on the December 20 and 30 in Bellary, saw Gaurav Solanki (57 kg), Vikash Krishnan (69 kg), Naman Tanwar (91 kg), Ashish Kumar (75 kg), and Satish Kumar (91+ kg) joining the final list of India’s boxing contingent travelling to China.

To end with

It has been a season of solid performances for the established names such as Mary Kom and Amit Panghal, while it proved to be a breakthrough year for a few female pugilists like Jamuna Boro and Manju Rani. With the Olympic qualifier little over a month away now, Indian boxing shows signs of great optimism, heading in the right direction.