They share a surname and insist they are brothers though they aren't related. One day after Akhil Kumar entered the flyweight quarterfinal, Jitender followed by winning his bantamweight bout against Tulashboy Doniyorov of Uzbekistan 13-6. This is the first time India has two boxers in the quarterfinals of the Olympics.
Akhil and Jitender know each other since 1999 from the Bhiwani Boxing Club. Four years later, they moved to the Sports Authority of India's training centre and have since been sharing the same hostel room in Patiala.
After the Athens Games, Akhil paid Jitender's expenses to keep him in the national camp after he had failed to make the cut. In 2005, Akhil insisted that Jitender, despite being a junior, participate in the senior national championships in Hissar. Jitender won bronze and returned to the national camp. Next year, he won a Commonwealth Games bronze in Melbourne.
"He is the reason why I took up this sport," said Jitender. After his Melbourne medal, Jitender had said: "Mera coach to mera bhai hai." On Saturday, he said: "He (Akhil) knows me and knows how I should fight. Of course, the coaches have been great, but I always pay heed to Akhil's advice."
Once Akhil was asked how he and Jitender were related. Pat came the reply: "Please don't ever ask that question again! How does it matter whether our parents are the same or not? We know each other and we don't think that we belong to different parents."
Now, both want to see each other on the podium. It's happened before. At the Commonwealth Games, Akhil won gold and at the Asian Championships last year, both won bronze. Akhil's quest resumes on Monday. Two days later, Jitender steps into the ring.
Award for boxers
The Haryana government on Saturday announced that all three boxers from the state who reached the quarterfinals would get a cash reward of Rs.25 lakh.