Indian boxing’s national observer Akhil Kumar today rejected insinuation of conflict of interest in his appointment, saying that casting aspersions on him is unfair as he is neither a beneficiary of government schemes nor a part of the national camp. Reacting sharply to reports that his appointment by the Sports Ministry was against the rules, Akhil, a former Commonwealth Games gold-medallist and World Cup bronze-medallist, told PTI that the controversy has left him flummoxed.
“People say that top-level sportspersons should come into the mainstream to promote sports in India. When we are doing that, controversies are being created,” Akhil, who is no longer an amateur boxer and has turned professional, said. “When I competed in my last amateur boxing competition, which was Asian Games 2014, and reached round of 16, people said he is a veteran with lots of injuries, his sporting career is over,” he recalled.
“Being an experienced Olympian and veteran boxer, the Government of India has appointed me as a National Observer but now people are saying I am an active sportsperson preparing for CWG and Asian Games 2018,” he laughed.
The 36-year-old, who was a quarterfinalist in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, had recently recommended youth boxer Shashi Chopra into the national camp. The Haryana-teen went on to win a gold medal at the youth World Championships last month.
“For the information of my well-wishers, I have not participated in any national and international tournament since Asian Games 2014. I am just pursuing my professional boxing career,” he explained.
Akhil was among the 12 current and former athletes, who were made national observers in March this year to ensure better monitoring of Olympic sports.
“At present, I am not an active amateur sportsperson. I am competing in professional boxing which has no concern with the Boxing Federation of India, SAI and GOI. Pro Boxing has no concern with government funding or national camps,” he said.
The national observers include the likes of Olympic-gold-medallist shooter Abhinav Bindra, double Olympic-medallist Sushil Kumar and boxing legend M C Mary Kom among others.
Of these, Sushil and Mary Kom are still active in their respective sports. Mary Kom was, in fact, India’s lone gold-medallist at the Asian Championships last month.
Akhil stated that since he is not benefitting from any government funding nor is he in line for selection at the national camp, implying conflict of interest in his role is ridiculous.
“I observe, analyse, review and report on the performance of Indian and foreign coaches and the progress of performance of the national campers and I am not a part of the national camp.
“I help to identify medal prospects under TOPS (Target Olympic Podium Scheme), finalise training programmes of chosen athletes and monitor their performance. I am not in the line for TOP Scheme,” he said.
“Then where is the conflict of interest?” he asked.