Amit Panghal and Manish Kaushik have ensured India win more than one medal for the first time in the history of the World Boxing Championship. (Image credit: Twitter)
India were assured of an unprecedented two medals at the World Men's Boxing Championships after Amit Panghal (52kg) and Manish Kaushik (63kg) entered the semifinals of the marquee event with impressive victories in Ekaterinburg on Wednesday. While Asian Games and championship gold-medallist Panghal defeated Filipino Carlo Paalam 4-1, Commonwealth Games silver-medallist Kaushik got the better of Brazil's Wanderson de Oliveira 5-0. Both the boxers sealed their maiden world medals. However, Sanjeet (91kg), a former India Open gold-medallist, lost 1-4 to Ecuador's seventh-seeded Julio Castillo Torres in his semifinal bout. Torres is a Pan-American Games silver-medallist. Before this year, India had never won more than one bronze medal in a single edition of the world championship. The overall medal count for the country stood at four bronze medals claimed by Vijender Singh (2009), Vikas Krishan (2011), Shiva Thapa (2015) and Gaurav Bidhuri (2017).
The second-seeded Panghal, who had earlier defeated Paalam in the Asian Games semifinals last year, wasn't off to the best of starts and was trailing Paalam at the end of the opening round. But the Armyman from Rohtak didn't take long to get his act together and become the more aggressive one in the next two rounds.
"I started slow but I think I dominated the second and third round. I was told by my coaches to be aggressive and I tried to be that. I had fought against him earlier so that gave me a fair idea of his gameplan as well," Panghal said after the bout.
In the last-four stage, the Haryana-pugilist will be up against Kazakhstan's Saken Bibossinov, who stunned Armenia's European gold-medallist and sixth seed Artur Hovhannisyan in his quarterfinal showdown. "He is a southpaw and has a long reach, I will work out a strategy for him," the 23-year-old Panghal said.
The Indian finished a quarterfinalist in the last edition of the world championship after losing a fiercely-contested bout to the then defending champion Hasanboy Dusmatov in the 49kg category. Kaushik, a former national champion making his debut at the world event, was the next to take the ring and produced a composed performance against a flamboyant rival, who paid for a very poor defence.
Kaushik was sharp with his counter-attacks and not for once seemed fazed by his opponent's attempts at trying to draw him in with a low guard. Next up for Kaushik is Cuban top seed Andy Gomez Cruz, who out-punched Russia's eighth-seeded Ilia Popov. Cruz was the light welterweight (64kg) category gold-medallist in the 2017 edition and is also a two-time Pan American Games gold-winner. Sanjeet, also making his debut at the event, did come up a spirited show against Torres but the Ecuadorian put more power in his punches and displayed sharp reflexes in avoiding the Indian's counter-hits to prevail in a thoroughly entertaining contest.