An exhausted Amit Panghal’s quest for an Olympic medal came to an abrupt halt as he was knocked out by Colombia’s Martinez Rivas in the pre-quarterfinals of the men’s boxing 52kg category.
“I have never seen Amit so tired against any other opponent,” said Santiago Nieva, the high-performance director of Indian boxing, as he walked into the mixed zone moments after the defeat.
Amit — the top seed in his weight category — lacked the strength and intensity to remain competitive after the first round. An occurrence that is very uncharacteristic of him.
The world champion began in great tempo and comfortably won the opening round. Four of the five judges saw him as the better boxer in Round 1, but things went downhill from there as he was out-boxed in the next two rounds.
Nieva revealed that Amit and Rivas had sparred on numerous occasions during the Indian team’s training camp in Italy ahead of the Olympics and he did not foresee Amit’s meek capitulation.
“He won the first round comfortably, but I noticed that he was getting tired in the second. I preserved my energy for the last two rounds,” noted Rivas, the silver medallist at the 2016 Rio Games.
Amit — gassed out — tried to duck and sway, but there was no corner to hide in the ring. The Colombian won the second round 4-1, and the final round was a mere formality with Amit visibly struggling. All five judges awarded the round to Rivas, much to the elation of the 15-odd Colombian contingent.
“Our strategy was to not stay close, score and move. We did not want to put too much power so that he does not burn energy. He did not have the strength to respond and became passive and the Colombian piled up a lot of points,” said Nieva. “Amit had won two rounds in his last training match against Rivas, and we hoped that he would do the same.”