The passing years have not withered his passion, nor have injuries bogged him down. He may have become a trifle slow at times due to injury, but his immense experience and zest to entertain always turn him into the showman of Indian boxing.
Akhil Kumar knows, come October, when he steps into the ring, he will have a chance to silence his staunchest critics, who have now and again bayed for his blood; particularly after a poor show at the Commonwealth Championships early this year. Injuries did not help him either. But the fighter he is, he made his way into the CWG team that was announced on Tuesday.
After a not too impressive couple of years, post the Athens Olympics, a gold by Akhil at the 2006 Commonwealth Games sparked the revival of Indian boxing. Buoyed by Olympic bronze medallist Vijender Singh's silver at the same Games, the sport in India just kept travelling north.
"Laonga to gold hi laonga (If I win, I will win gold)," says Akhil. "Not bronze or any other medal." After being tormented by a prolonged wrist injury, Akhil believes he's fit for the mega event. "Those niggles are less and I believe I am as fit as ever," he says. "Though the bout of viral fever has made me weak, I am recovering."
That Akhil had very good trials shows that he is fitter than he was some six months ago during the Commonwealth Championships. "I will still have to work on my speed and power," says the man who made it to the last four at the Olympics. "And till the Games that's what I will focus on." He doesn't even seem cagey about facing England's young pugilist, Iain Weaver, to whom he lost in the Commonwealth Championships. “If someone can beat him, it's me.” High on confidence, Akhil is bracing for a fight that will be remembered by generations to come.
The Indian challenge
Olympic bronze medallist Vijender Singh will lead a strong India team that boasts of Asian Champion Suranjoy Singh at the Commonwealth Games this October. The team is very balanced and the pugilists will rely on their experience. The team is almost identical to the one that won six golds at the Commonwealth Championships in March. As for the National coach, GS Sandhu, he was pretty pleased with the mood in the camp. "The boys are quite enthusiastic and the mood in the camp is very good," he said. "We have almost the same team as the Championships and hope to do well."