Five years ago, Akhil Kumar, a 2006 Commonwealth Games medallist, took a pugilist from a humble background under his wings.
New to the junior national circuit, Akhil took care of the teenager’s equipment and training. To give his ward, Mandeep Jangra, exposure, Akhil even got special permission to keep the budding boxer with him during national camps for the 2010 Commonwealth Games at the National Institute of Sports, Patiala, and even paid for his boarding and lodging.
Today, Mandeep, who once observed national campers from the sidelines, did the county proud by making it to the final in the 69kg weight category in his first Commonwealth Games.
“I am happy for Mandeep. The way he fought in the semifinal was superb. Despite trailing in the first two rounds, he wasn’t under pressure and threw solid combinations in the final round. He showed that he is a fighter,” said Akhil, a deputy superintendent of police in Haryana.
“This is not Mandeep’s final destination. He has a long way to go and our focus is a 2016 Rio Olympics medal,” added Akhil, who missed a medal by a whisker at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
In 2010, Akhil also got Mandeep enrolled in the pay-and-play scheme at NIS, Patiala, to ensure that in his absence, wife, Poonam, who is a boxing coach, could take care of Mandeep’s coaching.
When Akhil joined the Indian franchise, Mumbai Fighters, in the World Series of Boxing (WSB) in 2011, he got Mandeep recruited by the franchise to play in the WSB. Last year, Akhilal so became a part of the national camp to support Mandeep, who has an open stance like his mentor.
For all his hard work, Akhil had to face allegations that he facilitated Mandeep’s selection to the squad for the 2013 World Championships. Akhil went on to file a defamation suit against the allegations.
“Mandeep doesn’t require anybody’s support to make it to the team. In Glasgow, he has proved his worth,” said Akhil.
“Mandeep showed spark from the start. He needed direction and my contribution has been restricted to that.”