He has qualified for his second successive Olympics and it has been two years since he won a gold medal in the Commonwealth Games but boxer Akhil Kumar says despite being a winner inside the ring he feels defeated when it comes to getting his long pending incentives cleared from the government.
Akhil is only the third Indian boxer ever to have qualified for a second Olympics and he did that in style, winning the gold medal by beating Olympic silver medallist Thai Worapoj Pitchkoom in the final of the recently-concluded Asian Qualifiers.
But the triumph and many others before it have not been of any help in getting the Rs 10 lakh promised to him by the government cleared after he won the gold medal in Melbourne Commonwealth Games in 2006.
"Beating people inside the ring seems easier when compared to fighting this set-up. I don't know why my dues have not been cleared even though some others have got their money. It hurts ... But I guess I can't do much other than keep waiting," the 27-year-old boxer told PTI.
"My Federation has been supporting me throughout but it has been a very tough battle until now," he added.
The Haryana pugilist had also been fighting a career threatening wrist injury, that he picked up at the beginning of the last year, till recently and admits that the pain has not yet vanished completely.
"It still hurts a bit sometimes and a little more rehabilitation would be required but I am happy that at least I can box again. Last year a few doctors had declared that I would never be able to take the ring as my injury had aggravated big time," Akhil recalled.
Even at the Asian Qualifiers, he carried on inside the ring with a viral fever but still managed to out-score his opponents in three successive bouts and beat an Olympic hero in the finals to be named the Best Boxer of the event, a rare feat for an Indian.
"I caught fever the day I landed there but somehow, that didn't affect my performance much. I had to be taken to a hospital but when I entered the ring, I forgot everything. I guess that's what representing your nation does to you," he said.
"My coach (GS Sandhu) kept me motivated and and that also helped me give those winning performances," he added.
The boxer, who doesn't mind doubling up as a coach for fellow juniors, will now complete his rehabilitation before heading to Kazakhstan for the second and last Asian Olympic Qualifying event, not to participate but to spar with those he might come face to face in Beijing.
"I will go there just to watch and practice. Sparring with boxers from powerhouses like Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan always helps. But before that I have to complete my rehab and rest my body so that there are no niggles when I head to Beijing," he said.
"This is my best chance to get that long-dreamt Olympic medal and I want to be completely up for the challenge in August," he signed off.