Amit Panghal scripted history by becoming India's first male boxer to reach the final of the World Boxing Championships in Ekaterinburg, Russia on Friday.
The reigning Asian Games gold medallist Panghal (52kg) defeated Kazakhstan's Saken Bibossinov 3-2 in the semi-final. Also on Friday, India's Manish Kaushik finished with a bronze medal after losing 5-0 to top-seeded Andy Cruz Gomez in the 63 kg semi-final.
This is the first time India have won two medals in the same edition of the tournament, making it their best-ever performance.
The second-seeded Panghal, also the reigning Commonwealth Games silver medallist, won by a split verdict as the Kazakh managed to give him a tough fight throughout the match. Bibossinov had stunned Armenia's European gold medallist and sixth seed Artur Hovhannisyan in the quarterfinals.
In the final, Amit will face Uzbekistan's Shakhobidin Zoirov, the reigning Olympic champion in this weight category, on Saturday. Zoirov defeated France's Billal Bennama 5-0 in the other semi-final.
"The bout went very well for me although I had to put in more effort than I had thought. It is a huge achievement for Indian boxing and I am thankful for all the support that I have got," Panghal told PTI after the triumph. "I am going to push hard for a gold," he added.
His trademark pace and ability to adapt came in handy as Panghal outmaneuvered the taller Kazakh. The diminutive Armyman from Rohtak was more accurate, put more power into his punches and was sharp defensively. This was after he spent most of the first round getting a measure of his rival.
Bibossinov was no pushover and tried his best to cash in on the height advantage, but the Indian kept him at a distance to ensure that most of the Kazakh's attacks either didn't connect or lacked in impact.
Panghal had first shot to prominence when he claimed a 49kg category bronze in the 2017 Asian Championships. He was a quarterfinalist in the last edition of the World Championships, losing a fiercely contested bout to the then defending champion Hasanboy Dusmatov in the 49kg category.
Panghal shifted to a higher weight category earlier this year after the 49kg category was scrapped from the Olympics.
Commonwealth Games silver medallist Kaushik was outpunched by Cuba's Cruz, who was the light welterweight (64kg) category gold medallist in 2017 and is also a two-time Pan American Games gold medal-winner.
"I gave it my all but I guess there are a few things lacking in my game, which I will try to improve on. I will work harder and deliver better results in the coming tournaments," Kaushik said after the match.
India have never won more than one bronze medal in a single edition of the World Championships. Their previous medals -- all bronze -- were won by Vijender Singh (2009), Vikas Krishan (2011), Shiva Thapa (2015) and Gaurav Bidhuri (2017).