Updated: September 2, 2018 17:15:58
Uzbeks were reigning princes of boxing at the Rio Olympics – winning seven medals, most for every nation, including gold. There were two more than Russia, the US or Great Britain. Hasanboy Dusmatov was judged as the best boxer and Uzbek fans traveling with brass bands, creating a noise and stomping around arena's, as the jurors should know that they are the owners.
Except, Amit Phangal from India had other ideas on Saturday.
He shot from the air corner burning all cannons in the first minute and a half, to secure a 3-2 split decision victory – and India's first gold in boxing and the last of the Asian games in Jakarta .
Defects had crept into Dusmatov's boxing during the past two years since Rio, and a pattern had been created to take up his fierce right. Phangal crouched and fought from a low-punching position, going to the chest, denying the Uzbek all visible dominance by remaining out of reach in the first two minutes.
Boxing is now about impressing the judges – first impressions are important and the last impressions remain. Phangal walked around with his jumping 1-2 combination, the straight straight and the straight left. It was the early flurry, even when he took his head out of the way and strongly blocked in the first minute and half a minute, that Phangal set the tone for the rest of the fight.
The Indian tends to fight from a lower position and although he did not always lead from the inside, he let his hooks sink into the Uzbek armor from the start.
Phangal, who has a Commonwealth Games silver, was the only Indian in the fight for the final after Vikas Krishan had settled for bronze. It was a steep question against the alleged Olympic champion, but hitting the counter and tiring him, Phangal kept the energy level high, raising the pace in the last half of the third round, to prevent the case.
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This was in fact the second victory of an Indian on Dusmatov in three months time. Nutlai Lalbiakkima, the Mizo lightweight weight, had first defeated the Uzbek Olympic champion from Rio in June. And it seems that India and its high-performance director Santiago Nieva have the number of Dusmatov, as yet another Indian, bent and intertwined in Lalbiakkima's footprints with Phangal who overthrows two previous defeats to a massive golden win medal.
When Phangal fought him the last two times, the defeats had been lessons, brutally learned. But Indians had obsessively studied Dusmatov, boosted the speed and power of Phangal in England, created the tools needed to defeat the Uzbek and learned a bit from the 1-2 of the battle against the Mizo.
The 22-year-old Rohtak was attracted to boxing because of his older brother – an army man – who had said goodbye to see his little brother fight. His uncle was his first coach and it was not often that he collided with sparring pairs on southpaw. This meant watching video reels, re-viewing, paused and worn forwarding, and drilled in his mind for this battle with the left-handed.
However, it was a unique challenge for India's only finalist on Saturday – especially after having made the mistake in the opening rounds in the semi-finals by slowly starting and overtaking. Unlike the semi-final, where the fight was late in the evening, Phangal had to wake up at 5 a.m. and cut off ½ pounds of weight before he stepped on the scale for a fight at 2 p.m. So the day started with intense hopping and running – and less time to rest, eat and rehydrate.
Phangal also needed the reinforcing belief that he could overcome the man he had lost for two. "I told him that silver is nothing We can not be satisfied with silver," said Nieva, adding that the Amit now had much more confidence than the one who had gone to Dusmatov before.
A hard working hard worker, extremely concentrated and with great speed in both his attack and his footwork, Phangal had everything to become a champion. He is also known in the camp as the most relaxed of all boxers with an airy look at most things in life. "I am always amazed at the way he switches from being fooled and focusing intensely in the ring.As a switch on a button," Nieva said.
An Uzbekist felt the current flow through him when the button was turned on. India had its last gold of the Games. Cut on the counter, at the count of 1-2-hook-Go.
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