Akhil eyeing Olympic berth in Kazakhstan

Mumbai: Having missed the opportunity to make the cut for the 2012 London Olympics at last month`s World Championship, Indian boxer Akhil Kumar is eyeing the second and final qualifying tournament in Kazakhstan next year.

"All the name and fame we have achieved is due to the Olympics. It is the most important thing for me," he said on the sidelines of an event to announce the team of India`s lone World Series of Boxing Championship franchise, Mumbai Fighters.

"There is a tournament in Kazakhstan in March. I will try to aim for qualification through it. There is nothing bigger than the Olympics. I will give my best and leave the rest to god," he said.

The boxer from Bhiwani insisted that the WSB, which is likely to end in March-April, would not be a hurdle to the preparation and would in fact help the boxers.

"It`s not that they (team owners Transtadia) don`t want us to do well. Even they want us to do well in the Olympics. There are reserve boxers for each weight category in the team so it won`t hamper our preparations.”

"WSB would be a good preparation as we have a best of five round bout, compared to three-round bout in Olympics.”

"In a three-round bout, if you take lead in the first round you can win by defending it in the next two, but here you have to try to win all the rounds. If we can sustain five rounds, it would be much easier for us to last the three rounds in the Olympics," he added.

The 30-year-old former Commonwealth Games gold medallist, who shot to fame with his exploits in the 2008 Beijing Olympics where he made it to the quarter-finals, insisted that fighting without headgear was not harmful.

"Injuries can happen anywhere. I have had surgeries on my wrists twice despite wearing protection. In cricket, recently Gautam Gambhir suffered a concussion, Zaheer Khan was injured. Boxing ranks sixth in the number of injuries caused to sportsmen," he added.

Bantamweight pugilist Jitender Kumar said it was a dream come true for him to participate in semi-professional boxing.

"I have always liked professional boxing and always wanted to participate in it. In fact, I would like to participate in a bout featuring 12 rounds," he said.

Jitender felt the financial security provided by the WSB would help him concentrate on enhancing his skills better. "When you get financial security some of the pressure is lifted off. We can concentrate fully on our performance."

The 23-year-old Jitender, who missed the Baku World Championships as there was only one spot in his weight category (which was taken by Akhil), said he too would be vying to book his Olympic berth in Kazakhstan, where four Asian berths in his weight category would be on offer.

So far four Indian boxers, Vikas Krishan, Manoj Kumar, Jai Bhagwan and L Devendro Singh have qualified for the London Olympics.

US-based heavyweight boxer Paul Koon, who had earlier represented Miami Gallos in the WSB, winning both of his two bouts, felt some more time for preparation would have been ideal for the team ahead of opening its campaign in Pune`s Balewadi against Italian franchise Milano Thunder on November 11.

"The more time you get the better it is. A little more time would have been more appropriate. In America, professional teams train for about three months. We have trained for about six weeks....it is better than only one week," he said.

"The intensity among the Indian athletes is very different from where I come from. I like to attack and dismantle the boxer before he can get to me. It is slightly different approach from what they follow here," he said.

"I just showed them how to punch and compete at the professional level. The Indian boxers are very skilled and talented," he added.

Delhi Commonwealth Games gold medallist and middle-weight boxer Patrick Gallagher lavished praise on Indian pugilists, whom he had seen last year.

"Last year, I was down in Delhi for the Commonwealth Games. I fought an Indian, Dilbagh Singh, in the semi-final. He fought very hard. I`ve seen a few Indians. They won a few gold and bronze medals. They are very good boxers."


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