All but written off after a string of injuries wrecked havoc on his career four years ago, enigmatic boxer Akhil Kumar on Wednesday staged a remarkable comeback to make the 10-member Indian men’s team for the Asian Games scheduled to be held from September 19 in Incheon, Korea.
The 33-year-old, who rose to fame in the bantamweight 56kg category, has moved up a division to 60kg for the September 19 to October 4 event, the two-day trials for which ended in Patiala on Tuesday.
“I am back and I promise temperature inside the ring will go up when I step in,” the boxer, known for his daredevil style of fighting with an open guard, told PTI after his selection.
In the women’s team, five-time world champion M C Mary Kom (51kg) has made the cut, putting behind the disappointment of her omission from the Commonwealth Games squad. She had lost to eventual bronze-medallist Pinki Jangra in the trials.
CWG silver-medallist L Sarita Devi took the 60kg spot as expected.
But the star of the day was undoubtedly the comeback-man Akhil, a 2006 Commonwealth Games gold-medallist and 2008 Olympic quarter-finalist, who had been laid low by a string of injuries, which forced him to skip the trials for the 2012 London Olympics.
But the experienced pugilist’s never-say-die spirit finally paid off as he impressed one and all at the Asian Games trials in Patiala.
Akhil got the better of medallist Vikas Malik in a convincing manner before winning the final bout against Rohit Tokas on Wednesday.
“It was important to fight hard and prove it to myself and nobody else that what I had been trying for, and all my efforts were working towards the right direction,” said the World Cup bronze-medallist, who credited his wife Poonam Beniwal for being his biggest support system through the tough period.
“She has been the backbone of my efforts and I know this is as much her achievement as it is mine.
“Through moments of self-doubt, through times where too many thoughts have cluttered my mind, I feel today I have fought through all of them. It was not about being negative, but at times, your will and your results go in opposite directions. I had to fight through all of it, and I thank God for giving me the strength to be able to do so,” he added.
Akhil also thanked national coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu for keeping faith in him.
“Without his support, it would have been tough. He backed my abilities and gave me the chances. Besides, my other coaches — Jaidev Bisht and Amreek Singh — have taken such good care of my body that I am feeling very confident right now,” he said.
“I feel very fit, very determined and very focused. I am glad that I am back in the fold. I have had my share continued…