The International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Boxing Task Force has ranked Amit Panghal as number one for the Olympic qualifiers which take place next month. It is more than a decade since an Indian boxer achieved such a feat, Vijender Singh, back in 2009.
The Asia/Oceania Olympic qualifiers are being held in Amman, Jordan next month, having been rescheduled from their original venue, Wuhan, in China, following the outbreak and spread of the coronavirus.
In another break from normal procedure, the IOC has appointed the Boxing Task Force to oversee the qualifiers and the main event itself at the Tokyo games. That is because the main governing body for the sport, the International Boxing Association (AIBA) has been suspended by the IOC from its role in the Olympics, following corporate governance issues, and links of its President, Gafur Rakhimov of Uzbekistan, with organised crime (a claim he denies).
24-year-old Panghal tops the ranking with 420 points having won gold in the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games in 2018. And, last year, he became the first Indian male to claim a silver at the World Championships.
Meanwhile, six-time World Champion Mary Kom has been ranked fifth in the 51 kg. class with 225 points, while fellow contender in the same weight category, Nikhat Zareen is in 22nd place. The highest-ranked, Indian female pugilist, however, is two-time World bronze medallist Lovlina Borgohain. The 22-year-old is ranked third in the 69 kg weight division.
Other Indian boxers to feature include Asian silver games medallist Kavinder Singh Bisht, who is 7th in the 57 kg. class, with Gaurav Bidhuri, a former bronze winner, down at 32nd. Manish Kaushik in the highest-ranked Indian in the 63 kg. category – he is 12th, with compatriot Shiva Thapa, a four-time Asian medallist, also ranked.
Elsewhere, Ashish Kumar ranks 22nd in the 69 kg division, with the veteran Manoj Kumar a lowly 71st.
And, to round out the list, Sonia Chahal, twice a World and Asian silver medal winner, is 10th in the 57kg class.
Apart from Amman, Olympic qualifiers are being held in London (Europe), Dakar (Africa) and Buenos Aires (Americas). There will then be a final World Cup qualifying event to be held in Paris in May, with boxers accumulating points to determine seedings in the Tokyo Olympics.
The higher the seeding, the easier the opponents in the earlier round and, in theory at least, the greater the Olympic medal chance.