No reach too far for the diminutive Amit Panghal

The Indian pugilist credits the training during his early days for his ability to tackle taller boxers at the international level.

By Naveen Peter ·

He might be just five-feet-two-inches tall but when Amit Panghal let’s one fly, rest assured that the contact is guaranteed. And those punches, more often than not, sting.

The tale has it that when the diminutive boxer was growing up in Rohtak, a town famous for its ability to churn out civil service aspirants, Amit would find it hard to get a partner to spar along with.

Not that the Chhoturam Boxing Academy, where he had followed his brother Ajay as a kid, didn’t have anyone from his age category. But with the young Amit being short and fragile, his coach Anil Dhankhar was not keen throwing him into the ring with the bigger boys.

But Amit Panghal was determined. Not deterred by the circumstances around, Panghal Jr. would take to the ring and learn his craft.

"Bachpan se hi aisa raha hai (This has been the case ever since I was a kid),” Phangal admitted in a recent chat with the Olympic Channel.

“This has been the case ever since I started competing. Even in the domestic circuit, my opponents have largely been taller than me. I look at it as a blessing, because that forced me to find a way to negate the (reach) advantage that my opponent would get given his height.”

Sparring with the big boys

But as time progressed, Amit Panghal’s rise through the ranks was so rapid that his coaches started pairing him with pugilists from a higher weight category. “Now, it was not just the height that went against me, my partner would be much stronger than me,” he recalled.

“Sometimes the guys would be so tall that I would be staring at the skies…” he continued before letting out a chuckle over the phone.

These tried and tested techniques have not only made Amit Panghal a better boxer but has also helped in mentally training him for any challenge that is thrown at him.

Ever since his bronze medal finish at the 2017 Asian Championships, where he ended up losing to the Rio Olympics champion Hasanboy Dusmatov of Uzbekistan in the semis, the Indian champ has never looked back.

So far, the Indian ace has won a silver medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, a gold at the 2018 Asian Games and a silver at the 2019 World Championships - a first by an Indian - while also sealing his place at the Tokyo Olympics next year.

There’s no doubt that when Amit Panghal heads to the Tokyo Games, he will be among the favourites for a medal. While the weight of expectation would weigh a few down, Amit Panghal isn’t one among those.

“I know people expect me to win at the Games. Some might call it ‘adding pressure’, but I am sort of happy that people expect me to land a medal at the Olympics,” he said.

“It shows the trust that the nation has on me. That’s something that drives me.”

Amit Panghal not leaving anything to chance

The 24-year-old is happy to soak in the pressure and enjoys the adulation. But he is also aware of the mighty task that awaits him in Tokyo next year. “It won’t be easy, that’s a guarantee,” he stated.

“Winning the gold is what every athlete dreams about throughout his life. It’s been no different for me. Like, my first target was to make it to the Games. Now that qualification is secured, I want to ensure that I give my 100 per cent at the Tokyo Games and not leave anything to chance.

“You have the best in the business coming down for the Games every time, and Tokyo won’t’ be any different. My job is to ensure that I give my all in the training and be in top shape.”

And if his social media feed is anything to go by - he posts a video of him working out on Twitter almost every day - the man from Rohtak is determined to ensure no stone is left unturned in his quest for glory.