Amit Panghal's vision 2021 - Olympic gold and turning professional

"I [told Hasanboy Dusmatov, left] the next time we fight it should be in a professional bout and he agreed," says Amit Panghal. AP Photo/Lee Jin-man

Amit Panghal, the current world number one boxer in the flyweight (52kg) category, says he would like to turn professional following the Tokyo Olympics. "My first priority is the Olympics. But if I win a medal there and continue to feel in good shape, I'd like to turn professional," the reigning Asian champion and World Championships silver medallist told ESPN.

The desire to turn professional has long existed, says the 25-year-old. "I've always followed [two-time Olympic gold medallist and current professional world champion] Vasily Lomachenko. He has a very scientific way of preparing and even when I train, I try to follow what he does," he says.

It is another former Olympic champion turned professional, Hasanboy Dusmatov, who Panghal hopes to meet in the professional ring.

"Hasanboy is a good friend of mine. I admire and respect him a lot. We were speaking the other day on an Instagram story and he mentioned that he had beaten me twice and then I had beaten him a couple of times after that," says Panghal. The two wins for the Indian came en route gold medals at the 2018 Asian Games and the 2019 Asian Championships.

"We are currently 2-2. So I said the next time we fight it should be in a professional bout and he agreed," he says.

Should Panghal turn professional, he would join other top-rated Indian boxers like Vijender Singh and Vikas Krishan who have already made that switch. But while those two have won World Championship medals just as he has, Panghal says he first wants to emulate Vijender's Olympic medal -- still the only men's boxing medal won by an Indian.

"I've been getting several proposals over the past couple of years. It started when I first beat Hasanboy at the Asian Games. But I've said no to everyone so far. First of all, my goal is to become an Olympic champion, and then I will accept a good offer," says Panghal, who booked his ticket to Tokyo at the Asia-Oceania qualifiers in February this year.

"If I win the Olympics like Hasanboy, I will have more useful offers. Hasanboy won not only the championship, but also the Val Barker Trophy [awarded to the best boxer at the competition]. That's my goal for 2021 also," Panghal says.

While the professional dream has been put on hold until after the Olympics, Panghal hopes to get a lot more international exposure in the interim.

"A couple of days ago, I got an offer to take part in a boxing league-like tournament to be held in Iran in September," he says. "It's similar to the boxing league we had in India last year. I think it's a good opportunity because it would give me the chance to get a lot of exposure with some high-quality opponents but I'll have to see what the federation says and what the travel restrictions will look like in that period."

For the moment, though, Panghal is simply looking to get back to the ring. With the national boxing camp yet to get under way, owing to the nationwide lockdown, Panghal has been training at the boxing academy in Maina, Haryana, where he first learned to box.

"I'm not doing any sparring, because that's not allowed so far. I'm really looking forward to doing that when I can," he says. "I've mostly been doing a lot of weight training. I am working on increasing my strength, power and endurance. Since we have been in the lockdown, we have had a lot of time to watch old videos and plan for the future. I've been going through videos of not just my old fights but also those opponents I could have at the Olympics," he says.

He has already marked out prospective challengers -- world champion Shakhobidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan, Thitisan Panmod of Thailand who surprisingly beat Zoirov at the Olympic qualifiers, and China's Jianguan Hu.

But Panghal's also looking out, eventually, for Dusmatov. "If I was to go professional, I think I would win. I'd be more confident since I've beaten him twice already," he says.