When Akhil Kumar steps into the ring on Monday, one thing will be hovering in the back of his mind -- history.
He has become a little restive, but going by the way he is approaching his game, Moldova’s Veaceslav Gojan should not worry him much.
“I am not worried about him. I am more worried myself,” he said rather philosophically. “I don’t want to take anything for granted. I would like to take it as just another fight.”
Akhil has been on a roll. Since his recovery from a career-threatening wrist injury, he has been a revelation. But he doesn’t want to speak about it. He wants to do what he knows best – fight.
“I don’t know whether I am a revelation or not, but one thing that I know is I am trying to win here,” said Akhil.
Mind plays tricky games. At this stage, it’s all about handling pressure and controlling the mind. Not until long ago, Indian pugilists would look forward to ‘lucky’ draws. They would curse their luck if they were drawn against higher-ranked boxers. Suddenly that anxiety has given way to an invisible energy. Suddenly they are oozing confidence. They don’t think about the draw, they don’t think about whom they are fighting against – not anymore. Times have changed.
“So what if he is a world champion?” all the five boxers who had come here for the Beijing Games would say when asked about the draws.
The change in attitude has not been overnight. It has been a gradual process. Coaches BI Fernandes, Gurbax Singh Sandhu and physio Heath Mathews double up as psychologists to spur them up.
“We have to keep them in the best frame of mind,” said coach Fernandes. South African physio Mathews believed that in boxing one has to control the mind. “The boxers can’t bet too emotional or too charged up. There has to be a blance in their approach,” said Mathews, who had sports psychology in his curriculum.
The coaches are thinking of the right strategies to counter Gojan, who was impressive during his fight against China’s Yu Gu. "Don’t worry, we will open him up," said coach Fernandes. "We have seen him play and know how to handle him."