Going into his first Olympic appearance in Tokyo, boxer Amit Panghal was riding high on success after a meteoric rise. The boxer from Rohtak, Haryana, was seeded no. 1 for the Tokyo 2020 Games in the 52KG Flyweight category, where he also holds the world no.1 ranking in the world.
Buoyed by his success in winning a gold medal in the 2018 Asian Games, followed by a silver in the 2019 World Championships and 2021 Asian Championships, Panghal was expected to put up a good show in Tokyo.
However, tragedy hit the 25-year-old pugilist on Thursday as he was knocked out in the opening round of the Tokyo Games by the Rio silver medallist Colombian Yuberjen Herney Rivas Martinez.
Something that nobody had expected unfolded in front of eyes that too after starting the bout on a positive note. Panghal looked sharp and at his tactical best in Round 1. He kept his distance and threw well-coordinated combination punches with left and right hooks. He gave Martinez space but applied pressure at the right time to win the round by 4-1.
Things started falling apart immediately in Round 2, as it looked that Amit was steamrolled under pressure by Colombian. Martinez definitely upped his game, forcing Panghal to go in a defensive mode, and at times, he looked as if he chipped away.
The Colombian put relentless pressure on Panghal in Round 3, and it seemed that nothing came back from Amit after the highly invigorating round 1. The Colombian was delivering punches after punches which took Panghal on his back foot, and he further fell prey to the flurry of combination knocks from Martinez.
The sign of pressure was evident on Amit's face as he stood there and waited for the most uncomfortably painful decision — getting knocked out in his opening bout at the Olympics.
Being the world no. 1, Panghal's had a lot more to fight in Tokyo than just the opponent he was facing. But the early nerves and huge expectations probably got the better off, and he slipped against the highly motivated opponent who tried to prove his worth against a top-class opponent. Panghal's exit adds to the jinx of being the world no.1, which has faltered many in the Olympics.
Amit Panghal during his Round of 16 bout in Tokyo Olympics
The stage in Tokyo hasn't been kind to many Indian athletes who were designated to be the favourites to win a medal at the Games. From Manu Bhaker, Saurabh Chaudhury, Deepika Kumari, the entrants in the list kept adding new names and Panghal was the latest to be a part of it.
Only three out of nine Indian boxers have so far survived in the race in Tokyo. With Panghal's exit, the gleam of hope still rests on Lovlina Borgohain, who has already confirmed a medal for India, Pooja Rani, and Satish Kumar.