CHENNAI: Akhil Kumar has always been a quirky person. Never shy of throwing punches on and off the ring, he has naturally stood out in a crowd. One of the best boxers India has seen, the two-time Olympian is geared up for his second coming — in the professional circuit.
At 36, when most sportspersons contemplate retirement, Akhil will be part of one of the bouts in Mumbai on August 5, when Vijender Singh takes on China’s Zulpikar Maimaitiali in a contest dubbed ‘Battleground Asia’. And he had been patiently waiting for this, having signed a pro contract last year. The moment has finally arrived for Akhil.
“I have all the qualities to shine in the pro circuit. I can walk the walk, I’m not afraid to speak my mind. Now, it’s upto the promoters to take me ahead,” Akhil told Express. But before his much-awaited debut, the Haryana pugilist, who is backed by IOS Boxing Promotions, knows it’s going to be a tall order. Fitness is something that he is working on in the build-up. The former Commonwealth Games gold medallist revealed that he has been working with physical trainer Amandeep Verma for some time.
“I have the experience, but I need to work on my fitness. I have been working with a qualified trainer. We are taking a highly scientific approach. During my amateur days, it was all about hard work. But now, it’s more about smart work,” the Arjuna awardee, who will be competing in 63 kg welterweight category, said. Talking about scientific approach, Amandeep is happy with Akhil’s progress and keeping a close eye on his diet and recovery. “It’s good to work with Akhil. He is always positive and willing to put extra hours to achieve his goal. We have a month’s time before the bout. So, he can hit a peak, touch the maximum limit. We are looking to achieve that,” Amandeep said.
Akhil was last seen in action three years ago, during the 2014 Asian Games. But the pugilist, who was known for his open guarded style, is confident that the time away from competitive circuit won’t hinder his professional goals.
“I have been out of action for a long time but I have always been in touch with several boxers, helped them train. So, I have been updating myself on a constant basis. If I can maintain my fitness, it should not be that tough. I’m not claiming it will be easy.”
Apart from Vijender and Akhil, Jitender Kumar will also make his professional bow. The trio were hailed for their spirited performances during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which gave a massive fillip to the sport.
“It is good that we will be participating together. Like the way we helped push the profile of sport post Beijing (2008), we would look to look to do our bit further and make the supporters happy.”
Akhil’s opponent is yet to be announced, but he is determined to engage the fans. “All I can say is I won’t let the fans down. I won’t say that I will throw punches the way I used to during my prime. But I can say with certainty that I will improve with every bout. And the fans will definitely get to see the difference,” he signed off.