Tokyo Olympics-bound Indian boxer Amit Panghal breezed into the final of the 52kg weight class event at the Cologne Boxing World Cup on Thursday with a dominating semi-final win against 2019 World Championships bronze medallist Billal Bennama.
Amit Panghal, the reigning flyweight world No. 1, controlled the bout against his French opponent to win his bout by an overwhelming 5-0 margin.
Only three boxers are participating in the men's 52kg event at the tournament - Panghal, Bennama and German pugilist Argishti Terteryan.
The tournament in Germany has seen a depleted pool due to COVID-19 concerns, guaranteeing five medals for the Indian boxers when the draw was made.
Barring Panghal, Pooja Rani (women's 75kg), Manisha and Sakshi (women's 57kg) and Simranjit Kaur (women's 60kg) started their respective weight class events from the top four.
Another Indian boxer who got herself in medal contention on Thursday was 2016 world championships silver-medallist Sonia Lather. The 28-year-old overcame Ukraine’s Snizhana Kholodkova 3-2 in the women’s 57kg quarter-finals to move into the semis.
Sonia Lather will face compatriot Manisha in the semis while Sakshi lies in the other bracket.
Tokyo-bound Satish Kumar (men’s +91kg) also progressed to the semi-finals after a 5-0 win over Moldova’s Alexei Zavatin. The super heavyweight will face France’s Djamel-Dini Aboudou in the top four.
The men’s 57kg, meanwhile, has two Indians in the semi-finals with Gaurav Solanki and Mohamed Hussamuddin winning their respective quarter-final bouts. Kavinder Singh Bisht, in the same category, lost to Frenchman Samuel Kistohurry.
Kistohurry and Solanki will square off in the semis while Hussamuddin will be aiming to get past Germany’s Hamsat Shadalov for a shot at gold.
Ashish Kumar (men’s 75kg) bowed out after losing his opening bout to Netherlands' Max van der Pas. Four-time Asian medallist Shiva Thapa (men’s 63kg) and Sanjeet (men’s 91kg) opted out due to injuries.
There was a scare in the Indian camp heading into the German tournament, with Rohit Kashyap – a physio – testing positive for COVID-19. The Sports Authority of India (SAI), however, confirmed that the boxers were fine and tested negative for the coronavirus.
The Cologne Boxing World Cup is the Indian boxing contingent’s last stop in its training-cum-exposure camp in Europe, designed to prepare for Tokyo.