Class of Beijing 2008 set for professional reunion

Nine years after their breakthrough performances at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Akhil Kumar and Jitender Kumar will share the limelight with Vijender Singh.

Published: 28th June 2017 02:13 AM  |   Last Updated: 28th June 2017 08:24 AM   |  A+A-

Indian boxer Vijendra Singh and Chinese boxer Zulpikar Miamiatiali during the launch of 'Battleground Asia' in Mumbai on Tuesday. | PTI

Express News Service

MUMBAI: Nine years after their breakthrough performances at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Akhil Kumar and Jitender Kumar will share the limelight with Vijender Singh. With Vijender tasting success as a professional, his former training buddies have finally decided to take the first step towards a pro career.

They will feature in the preliminary four-round bouts before Vijender’s headline act against Zulpikar Maimaitiali, dubbed ‘Battleground Asia’, in Mumbai on August 5.

“Even before I had officially announced that I am turning pro I had told them that I am going to Manchester, and we should all go together, like old days,” said Vijender, after the announcement of his latest bout. “Maybe they didn’t want to take the risk at the time, maybe they were happy with their Police life, I’m not sure,” he added.

“But now that they have seen that it is a viable option, they are willing to give it a go.”

Vijender, who had returned with a bronze from the 2008 Games, made the switch from amateur to professional in 2015 and has been unbeaten in his eight bouts so far. A WBO Asia Pacific Super Middleweight champion, Vijender will face China’s Maimaitiali at the NSCI Dome. The Chinese fighter, aged 22 as opposed to Vijender’s 31, also has an 8-0 record and holds the WBO Oriental title.

And while the spotlight and trash-talking will be left to those two, it will be interesting to see Akhil and Jitender return to the ring. Both of them had made it to the quarterfinals in Beijing, leading the first wave of boxing success in the country at Olympics, but have subsequently faded out. While Akhil, 36, last played at the 2014 Asian Games, Jitender’s last international appearance came in 2011.

“The truth is I had started enjoying police work,” smiles Jitender, who is a DSP in Haryana Police.

“It is interesting work. But I am only 28, and have some fight left in me. So I thought I would like to give it another shot. I had put on a bit of weight, but I am back in training now and in shape.”

Jitender will compete in the 61 kg lightweight category while Akhil will fight in the 63 kg junior welterweight in four-round bouts.

Even as they are trying to rekindle the passion in the ring, the duo was appropriately suited up for the occasion, which gave them the first-hand experience of the glitz and glamour, and heavy promotions that come with pro boxing.

deeptipatwardhan@newindianexpress.com

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