Veteran Indian boxer and Olympic medallist Vijender Singh is confident of young Amit Panghal’s ability to do well at the Tokyo Olympics next year.
The flyweight category (52kg) Indian boxer entered the Asian Boxing qualification tournament as the top seed after winning a gold medal at the 2019 Asian Championships and a silver medal at the World Championships.
And the top-ranked pugilist justified his position by sealing his Tokyo Olympics berth by defeating Philippines Carlo Paalam in the quarter-finals with a 4:1 split decision.
“Amit Panghal is a world-class boxer,” Vijender Singh told the WION website.
“He is world No 1 right now and also the reigning Asian Games gold medalist. So, there is no reason why he cannot do well at the Olympics,” he added.
Amit Panghal wasn’t the only Indian boxer to seal an Olympic berth as eight other Indian pugilists booked their ticket to Tokyo to make it India’s largest contingent ever for the Summer Games.
After an underperforming campaign at the 2016 Olympics, Vijender Singh is optimistic about India’s chances this time.
“I must say their recent performances have been excellent,” the 2008 bronze medallist said.
“That just shows how far Indian boxing has come, I am confident that the contingent will be able to make the country proud,” Vijender Singh added.
Mary Kom an inspiration
Apart from the current crop of Indian boxers, who turned heads at the qualifiers, Vijender Singh was also all praise for two compatriots who competed alongside him at the London Games – MC Mary Kom and Vikas Krishan.
While a 37-year-old Mary Kom sealed a place for her last-ever Olympics, a 28-year-old Vikas Krishan took a temporary break from his professional boxing to qualify for his third consecutive Games.
“It is all the more difficult for Mary because she has four kids now. It is a very hard balancing act but she is able to somehow manage,” said Vijender Singh.
“She is an inspiration to all Indians, including me. Her determination is exemplary, and she instils belief in all of us.
“Vikas is a very experienced boxer. He has been to two Olympics and that will work in his favour at next year's games,” he added.
Lockdown a welcome break
The coronavirus outbreak, which had initially scheduled the Asian Boxing Qualifiers from China’s Wuhan to Jordan’s Amman, had escalated by mid-March. And the Indian boxers have remained confined to their homes since returning from their qualification campaign.
Vijender Singh, however, believes that the forced break acted as a breather for the boxers who have been relentless in their Olympic quest.
“When you are training for an event like the Olympics, athletes also need to be able to cool off and let their hair down,” the former amateur boxer pointed out.
“It is essential for their mental well-being because there is so much pressure on them. From time to time, athletes need to be able to relax, go out and interact with other people.
“If the athletes do nothing but train, then it will invite more pressure on them,” he explained.