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Akhil Kumar stuns World champion

india Updated: Aug 16, 2008 01:15 IST
Indraneel Das
Indraneel Das
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Seemingly a loudmouth, Akhil Kumar’s ring mantra seems to be ‘catch me if you can’. A year of turmoil, suffering and uncertainty keeps him on his toes. No one has endured pain as much as him. It has taught him to be more fleet-footed and patient. As he sat squatted hermit-like on the canvas after beating the world champion from Russia, Sergey Vodopyanov, those harrowing times kept flashing by.

<b1>“I have to cling on to them. They are my past. I have to draw inspiration from them because they made me suffer,” said Akhil, his eyes bloodshot and voice still quivering with excitement. “And it was these sufferings that's made me stronger and stronger. Nothing can be more painful than the twinge in my wrist -- those thoughts still sends shivers down my spine.”

Till he stepped into his home here --- that is what he calls the ring --- he has maintained: “If God is with me I will go home with a gold.”

On Friday, that belief kept him going. No matter whether he was 2-6 down, or tied at 7-7, that invisible force seemed to spur him on. Faith can indeed move mountains.

It was deafening inside the Workers’ Stadium. The crowd went wild. As the boxers unleashed hooks, rights and jabs the crowd went into a frenzy. It was insane. Perhaps it’s this insanity that keeps the boxers going. Or else how can anyone derive pleasure from one of the most brutal sports in world?

Akhil’s style is unorthodox. Shedding off all defence he taunts and teases his opponents into taking a crack at him. Two years ago, any boxer would have stepped in, gone bang-bang against him and withdrawn. Not any more. That’s because Indian fighters have are no longer the world’s whipping boys.

In the first round, Akhil tried gauging his opponent. He got hold of a couple of punches, but managed only one point to Vodopyanov’s two. Both were cautious.

It’s strange to hold back when the adrenaline keeps pumping. On Friday, Akhil had other ideas. In the second round he tried a couple of rights. Though he managed to break through the Russian’s defence, it didn’t fetch him a point.

Down four points in the second 2-6, Akhil managed to get two points with his left. Going into the final round, Akhil had to overhaul one-point deficit (7-8). He went on cautiously. He got level with a straight and then the Russian took one.

And despite trailing 9-8, and 56 seconds to go, Akhil got one. Straight on his face -- the judges nodded and the score tied at 9-9. Both went for the kill, but Akhil held on.

He will take on Moldova’s Veaceslav Gojan in the quarterfinal on Monday.

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Akhil Kumar

(54kg – bantamweight)
The Haryana boxer is the fifth-ever Indian pugilist to compete in the two successive Olympic Games. He proved his worth by bagging gold and the best boxer award in the 1st Asian Olympic qualifiers in Thailand on February 3 this year. He outclassed Athens Olympic silver-medallist Worapoj Pitchkoom (Thailand) 21-11.

Career milestones

2003 Afro-Asian Games (India) – Gold
2005 Commonwealth Championships (Glasgow) – Gold
2006 Commonwealth Games (Melbourne) – Gold
2006 SAF Games (Colombo) – Gold
2006: Arjuna Award for year 2005
2007 Asian Championships (Mongolia): Bronze
2008 1st Asian qualifier (Bangkok): Gold

Beijing blast
Round 1: Beat 2005-World Championship bronze-medallist Ali Hallab (France) 12-5.
Round 2: Beat world's No.1 ranked and current world champion Sergey Vodopyanov (Russia) on the basis of judges' point after the two ended their bout at 9-all.

How it went down to the wire

Vodopyanov Akhil
R 1: 2 1
R 2: 4 3
R 3: 2 3
R 4: 1 2

Blow by blow account
1. Vodopyanov races to a 6-2 lead midway through the third round.
2. Akhil bounces back late in the third round, narrowing the gap to 7-8.
3. In the fourth, he lands a couple of punches on the Russian to draw parity.
4. With both equal, Akhil was declared winner.