Though Akhil was unlucky to miss out on a medal at the Beijing Olympic Games, he has emerged as the real face of Indian boxing — fearless and confident of taking on the best in the business. Now, the bantamweight boxer along with three others — Jitender Kumar, A.L. Lakra and Dinesh Kumar — is leading the country's challenge in the 1st AIBA World Cup starting in Moscow on Wednesday. Akhil is in no mood to let the opportunity slip out of his hands.
“I put in my best efforts at Beijing. Unfortunately, I couldn't make it to the podium. I am lucky that I have got another chance to prove my worth. I am confident of making up for the earlier loss,” Akhil told HT from Moscow. Russia has been a happy hunting ground for Akhil. He played his first international competition in the senior category there and won gold.
“Before reaching Moscow on December 3, my focus was to get the bodyweight right and I'm happy it's perfect now,” said Akhil. Confidence apart, Akhil would know that winning a medal at the World Cup wouldn't be easy. Two Olympic medallists — Leon Alarcon Yankiel (Cuba) and Gojan Veaceslav (Moldova) — along with the 2007 World champion, Vodopyanov Sergey (Russia), are competing for the ‘Best of The Best Boxer’ title in the bantamweight category.
Jitender Kumar, who also missed the Olympic medal by a whisker, is confident of coming out in flying colours in Moscow. Although there are two Olympic medallists in the flyweight category, what could go in Jitender's favour is the fact that three newcomers — from Russia, Wales and Moldavia —are also in the list of eight competitors. So, his main challengers would be Laffita Hernandez (Cuba) and Picardi Vincenzo (Italy). “I wouldn't spare anybody. This time around you will find me on the podium,” said Jitender.
For Lakra (57kg), who got a wildcard, it's going to be a tough contest as Olympic gold-medallist Lomachenko Vasyl (Ukraine) will be vying for the top honours. Besides, Lakra has not defeated any of the seven boxers in the fray. Dinesh Kumar (81), who got the wildcard at the 11th hour, can spring some surprises as none of the four Olympic medallists are competing in his weight category. "Beijing was my first major tournament, but the exposure I got there was tremendous. I hope it will. help me in Moscow," said Dinesh.