Tashkent: India would be aiming to better their best-ever show when the trio of Deepak Bhoria, Mohammad Hussamudin and Nishant Dev step inside the ring against tough opponents in pursuit of summit berths in the men’s boxing World Championships here on Friday.
The fact that all three medals have come in Olympic categories augers well for India heading into the Asian Games, which is the first qualifying event for the Paris Olympics.
India have never had three semifinalists at the marquee event for amateur boxers and in that respect, the three boxers have already scripted history.
In 2019, Amit Panghal became the first Indian male boxer to reach the final, which was a gigantic step forward for the sport in the country and now Deepak, Hussmudin, and Nishant have the chance to take it forward.
The task, however, is easier said than done. All three of them have tough opponents standing in their path to the final.
Deepak (51kg) has in his way two-time World Championships medallist Bilala Bennama. The Frenchman, who is also the 2022 European champion, will be eager to change the shade of his two bronze medals.
Hussamuddin (57kg), on the other hand, will go up against Cuba’s Saidel Horta, who knocked out Worlds and Asian Championships silver medallist top seed Serik Temirzhanov of Kazakhstan in the quarterfinals.
Nishant (71kg) will face 2022 Asian Champion and 2018 Asian Games silver medallist Aslanbek Shymbergenov of Kazakhstan.
It is a chance for Deepak to either replicate or better the silver-winning feat of former world number one Panghal, who has been the first choice in this weight category for a long.
Deepak’s first major medal came at the 2019 Asian Championships where he clinched a silver. He finished runner-up at the prestigious Strandja Memorial tournament in 2021.
The 25-year-old went on to win the 2021 and 2023 Nationals and based on the new selection criteria he was named in the Indian squad ahead of Panghal for this event.
He has repaid the faith the new High-Performance Director Bernard Dunne and coach Dmitry Dmitruk have shown in him. Armed with a lethal left hook, Deepak has impressed one and all in this tournament.
He staged one of the biggest upsets of the championships by upstaging Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Saken Bibossinov of Kazakhstan.
Nizamabad’s Hussamudin, on the other hand, had to wait long for this opportunity to compete at the Worlds but as they say ‘the longer the wait, the sweeter the fruit’, the 29-year-old has medalled on his debut campaign.
The two-time Commonwealth Games bronze medallist is one of the most experienced campaigners in the squad and he will be banking on this experience against Horta in the battle of the debutants.