Boxing bouts are not won just inside the ring. Sometimes, they are won outside; in the warm-up area or, may be, in the locker room or in the practice hall — and, almost always, in the mind. Sometimes, ferocious punches don’t matter.
Akhil Kumar’s 11-6 victory over England’s Ian Weaver is a combination of backroom strategy and impeccable boxing.
When Akhil stepped inside the boxing hall, the crowd at the Talkatora Stadium went delirious, almost hysterical. Even the bell was inaudible. Akhil was unfazed. He was focussed. All the while, he had to tell himself, “stay cool, stay cool”. He had lost to him seven months ago during the Commonwealth Championships here.
Akhil knew he was fighting one of the most important bouts of his life. He knew he had to curb his natural instinct (of attacking) and not at any point should let his guard fall. To beat Weaver, he must not play to the gallery.
That’s what the Melbourne Games gold-medallist did. He drew his opponent to him, punched him and withdrew. Waltzed the canvas, stayed away from Weaver’s lethal left and kept his guard up, all the time. Upper cuts were minimal. He relied on a combination of straight left, right and occasion hooks.
“Sometimes you have to learn from your folly,” said the 28-year-old after beating Weaver 11-6 in the bantamweight pre-quarters here on Saturday. And the first people he thanked at the post-match presser were Cuban coach BI Fernandes and Jaidev Bisht. He lost the quarterfinal bout in the Olympics because of a loose guard. He lost to Weaver when he tried to overpower him with his punches.
“It was difficult to not get carried away by such a support,” said Akhil. “I had to keep my cool and that’s what I did.”
Weaver, on the other hand, cried foul. “The score should have been 11-6 in my favour,” he said. Even if one or two points were contentious, Akhil on Saturday was simply unbeatable.
Earlier, Suranjoy Singh and Amandeep Singh stormed into the medal round. However, Dinesh lost his pre-quarterfinal bout.
Around 45 minutes were left for Akhil’s bout against Weaver. Just outside the playing hall, in the Stadium, Scotland’s Joseph Ham was lying on the floor with an oxygen mask, fighting for his life. He lost to Sakaria Lukas of Namibia, felt dizzy and collapsed. Inside, the crowd was shouting after each punch, unaware of Ham’s perilous situation.
This is boxing in its cruellest form. While the crowds may enjoy the punches, the boxers go through an ordeal — of pain and trauma.