Amit Panghal, Kavinder, Sanjeet enter finals of French boxing tournament

Back in the ring after an eight-month lull, Indian boxers put up a good show at the Alexis Vastine International Tournament in Nantes.

By Utathya Nag

Indian boxers marked a successful return to the ring after COVID disruptions, as Amit Panghal, Kavinder Singh Bisht and Sanjeet reached the finals of their respective weight categories at the Alexis Vastine International Tournament in Nantes, France.

The tournament is part of the Indian boxing contingent’s European tour to prepare for the Tokyo Olympics. It was also the first time the boxers took part in a competitive bout since the Olympic qualifiers in Jordan in March.

Amit Panghal (52kg) defeated American boxer Christopher Herrera 2-1 to set up a gold medal bout in what was a short four-boxer draw. The Indian boxer will face USA’s Abraham Rene Perez for the top prize.

The 2019 World Boxing Championships silver medallist is the reigning AIBA world No. 1 in his weight class and has already secured a quota place for Tokyo.

Panghal, however, admitted that returning to the ring after an eight-month-long lull was quite a challenge.

“It felt different facing an opponent. I was cautious. There was fear of injury. We don’t know how the body, the muscles will respond and the last thing you want now is an injury,” Panghal told Hindustan Times.

Indian boxers only began sparring a few weeks back after travelling to Assisi, Italy, to train. Practice bouts weren’t allowed even at the national camp in Patiala due to the COVID safety protocols.

The 25-year-old Panghal was happy with how things turned out on his return to the ring and noted a few more bouts will help his confidence grow.

Kavinder, a former Asian Championships silver medallist, set up a final bout against Frenchman Samuel Kistohurry after a sweeping 3-0 win over another local boxer Benik George. Kavinder competes in the 57kg weight class.

Sanjeet (91kg) beat USA’s Sherrod Fulghm 2-1 and will face local favourite Soheb Bouafia in the final.

Shiva Thapa (63kg), meanwhile, had to settle for bronze after losing to France’s Lounes Hamraoui 2-1 in the semi-final. Thapa, a 2015 World Championships bronze medallist, had earlier beaten Dutch boxer Enrico Lacruze in his first bout of the competition.

Satish Kumar (+91kg) was bested by Aliev Mourad of France in his opening bout, while Sumit Sangwan (81kg) bowed out after a 2-1 loss to US boxer Robby Gonzales.

Ashish Kumar (75kg) is the seventh Indian boxer participating in the French tournament.