Make or break time for boxer Akhil Kumar
Celebrated boxer Akhil Kumar tells Laxmi Negi he is enjoying his boxing and looking to give his best at the upcoming World Championships in Baku, the first qualifying tournament for the Olympics.
This raging bull is raring to go!
Akhil Kumar seems to have matured by years in recent times as he talks with the calmness of a sage. Sounding a little philosophical, he tries to hide the intense pressure building up inside him ahead of the World Championships in Baku, Azerbhijan, from September 22 to October 10.
As the team departs for France on a training camp on Saturday, the celebrated boxer turns back in time to reflect on his achievements, but doesn't have much time, as, he says, he has stopped dwelling on the past.
On the other side of a boxer's age (read wrong), the 31-year-old was not a popular choice to set out for the World Championships, yet everyone swears by his performance on the D-day -- the day of selection trials.
Said coach Gurbux Singh Sandhu: "I will not glorify by saying he is the fittest in the team, but one thing I am sure of -- expect anything from him!"
Image: Akhil Kumar
'I have experience on my side'
Akhil beat Shiva Thapa, a young, up-and-coming lad, by a unanimous decision for a place in the World Championships.
What did the trick for him?
"The youth these days," said Akhil, "are very high on their fitness. Therefore, it was important for me to work well on my technique and fitness level too. I have experience on my side to overcome the other challenges."
Gone are the days when he spoke at length about his preparations, but little of it could be seen in the ring. Hopefully, this time around, this new Akhil, who speaks less, but sensibly, will emulate his words and philosophy in the boxing ring too.
The workaholic 2006 Commonwealth gold medalist, who just dreams about boxing, is looking forward to the upcoming tour of France.
"The training camp in India was satisfying. Now that the visas are cleared, I am looking forward to training in France. Sparring with boxers of different techniques, the approach will be the best preparation that can be offered to us. From there it depends on us where we take it."
Image: Akhil Kumar
'Watching others in the ring can be very informative'
On a personal note, Akhil invests time on his personal preparation too. Apart from sweating around in the ring, he has also learnt that seeing is believing, and, therefore, points out: "Other than working on myself, I have inculcated this habit of watching others box, in training as well as during their official bouts. Sometimes theory doesn't help, but watching what others do in the ring can be very informative."
The pressure will be double, as the World Championships will also serve as the first Olympic qualifier. It might appear as another laurel for Akhil, who is already two Olympics old, but he feels it is too early to talk about it.
Flashing back into the philosophical mode, Akhil says he is enjoying his boxing and wants to give his best. Whether his best will be good to qualify for the Olympics is anyone's guess. But, as coach Sandhu puts it, it is make or break time for the Haryana-based Uttar Pradesh boxer.
Image: Akhil Kumar with coaches Gurbux Singh Sandhu and B I Fernandez