Akhil Kumar kept tossing in his bed all night, the loss to Moldova’s Gojan Veaceslav haunting him through the night.
“Frustrating? Yes. But it was something more than just frustration. I have never felt like this before,” Akhil said on Tuesday.
Even today he will not be able to sleep. “Let’s forget about my match for a while. Tomorrow is a big day for Indian boxing,” he said, eyes immediately lighting up. “God willing, we should be through to the semifinals.”
Vijender Kumar (75kg) and Jitender Kumar (51kg) will step into the same ring, where Akhil fought valiantly, for the quarterfinal bouts in their respective weight categories on Wednesday, hoping to turn a new leaf in Indian boxing.
Vijender is motivated. He and the support staff have analysed Ecuadorean opponent Carlos Gongora’s bouts and the mood is one of optimism.
“I just want to win it for Akhil,” said a charged up Vijender. Even Jitender echoed his teammate’s sentiments. “He (Akhil) is my hero and my brother and I will fight for him tomorrow,” said the 20-year-old.
But the intensity of Olympic boxing is different and when you are in the last eight, it just gets more and more competitive. “We know that it won’t be easy so we have prepared for any eventuality,” said Vijender. “We are prepared to take on the boxers.”
For all such statements, it must though be pointed out that by way of strategy for Akhil, India failed to find one when the Moldovan was tight on his defence. There was no Plan B.
“We will try to play a little more tactical game on Wednesday,” said B.I. Fernandes, the Cuban coach. “We know Akhil could have waited, like the Moldovan, but then you can’t blame him if we don’t get some crucial points.”
Russia’s Georgy Balakshin, who Jitender will face in the second bout of the evening, has been a bronze medallist at the World Championships in 2001. Like all European boxers, he too loves playing the waiting game. A combination of left, right and straight is what they believe in. Their game might be unattractive, but it produces results.
“We (the two coaches and physio Heath Mathews) have been discussing strategies. Hope it will work out tomorrow,” said Akhil. “The boxers are relaxed and they know what they are capable of doing. Mein haar gaya to yeh matlab to nehi kya yeh log boxing karna chod denge,” said Akhil.
As for Jitender it’s an opportunity to go one up on his role model. “I will try to do my best, rest depends on destiny,” he said.
Deriving strength from the past
Vijender too is ready. Since the day he put on the boxing gloves, Vijender has one quality that has been the cornerstone of his game composure. Just before a tough bout, it’s almost become ritualistic for the Asian Games bronze medallist to uncork memories of all his great fights.
“I just want to remember those fights,” he said. “I will try and enjoy my game.”
If this acts as stimulation outside the ring, in it he is very adaptive. “He can adapt well to any condition,” said coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu. Another quality about him is that he waits for his chances and is never afraid to attack on the counter. He knows how difficult it was for him to reach this far and he would not like to squander it. Then again he has an opponent who can hit back to subdue. “Let’s see what happens tomorrow,” Singh said with a smile.