Let me tell you something you already know,” says Rocky Balboa in Rocky Balboa (2006), the sixth and final part of the Rocky movie franchise. “You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done. Now, if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth.”
This very Hollywoodish dialogue, delivered by Sylvester Stallone to his screen son, has resonated not only with Rocky and boxing fans, but boxers as well.
Just ask Akhil Kumar, who claims to have remembered those very words as he stepped into the ring at NIS Patiala for the Incheon Asian Games trials. It was one of the most important bouts of his career; a career that stood at a crossroads.
For those present at the venue, and there were quite a few, it was a comeback of Hollywoodish proportions. Akhil, their beloved hero, in the wrong side of the 30s, hoping to make a comeback after having battled everything from the odds to injuries to a weight problem, taking on a boxer in his early 20s. Three rounds later, the movie script had been written.
As the crowds roared as one, Akhil, known for his open guard stance and swinging arms, raised his arms in the universal gesture of triumph and walked up to his opponent Rohit Tokas for the mandatory post-bout fist-pump. Quite like Balboa, Akhil’s story too had just got a new lease of life.
The Indian Stallion
Akhil’s nickname could well have been The Indian Stallion — a boxer who has been one of the constants in the ever-changing line-up in the Indian boxing scenario since he first joined the senior national camp in 2001 in Himachal. But this time around, even he faced several challenges in his quest to return to the top level.
An injury in his right calf after the 2011 World Championships at Baku, Azerbaijan, forced Akhil out of the game for four months. While injuries are a constant companion in a boxer’s life and are part and parcel of the game, Akhil found it hard to stay chained to his bed despite his doctors pleading with him to take complete bed-rest. Why? Because the trials for the Asia-Olympics qualifying tournament, which could earn boxers tickets to the 2012 Summer Olympics, were around the bend and Akhil did not want to miss the chance to make his third successive Games. But despite his strong will, the injury had taken a toll on Akhil’s body. Unable to train as well continued…