A moment of reckoning for Akhil and Indian boxing

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Beijing, Aug 17 (UNI) It is going to be a moment of reckoning for Akhil Kumar when he takes on Moldova's Veaceslav Gojan in the quarter-finals of the 54 kg (Bantam) event in the Olympic competition here tomorrow because a victory for him will ensure a first ever Olympic boxing medal for India.

In this sport the boxers, who make it to the semi-final get a bronze medal each, even if they don't make it to the final.

It is for the first time that three boxers from India have made it to the quarter-finals and Akhil realises the imporance of tomorrow's bout.

''I know that my win will boost the morale of the other two boxers - Vijender and Jatinder Kumar. I want to show them the way, because they look up to me and respect me a lot,'' he said.

Talking to UNI, Akhil said he was not overconfident, ''Yes I am confident but I am not taking my rival lightly against whom I am going to fight for the first time.'' Asked if he has seen Gojan boxing, the Indian replied, ''well I don't take part in small level of competitions in which top ranked or famed boxers are not taking part.'' Akhil, who stunned world Champion Sergey Vodopyanov in the second round, said, ''I am well prepared for the bout, I have seen Gojan's video several times and I am talking to my coaches (Fernandez and Sandhu) about the tactics and strategy for the fight.'' Having won the crucial bout against Segey on India's Independence day, Akhil said he now wants to ensure first ever Olympic boxing medal for the country. ''I'm very emotional about my country and I have to rise to the occasion,'' he said.

''I know my win will give big boost to the sports back home and will propel other two to go for the medal and if we win three medals, that will be the best thing to happen,'' he added.

''I will box according to plan, and will not allow my opponent any quarter,'' he added.

Asked if the pressure of winning the medal may effect his performance, Akhil said, ''I don't think so, when I boxed against the World Champion I wanted to prove that I am among the best in my category which I proved. Now I want to become the first boxer to win the Olympic medal in this sport for my country.

''I was not overawed by the World champion, neither I am going to be over confident against Gojan,'' the 27-year-old Indian Railway employee said.

The 25-year old Gojan, had too impressive wins against Khavazhy Khatsyhau (Belarus) and China's Yu Gu but it remains to be seen whether he will be able to take on the rampaging Indian.

Gojan had won a fly weight title in 2005 but his record in 54 Kg (Bantam) has not been very impressive.

Going by the form, Akhil should have no problem in beating him but the danger is that the Indian may fall prey to his own over confidence.

Gojan has nothing to lose and Indian has every thing at stake and that is going to make this bout a battle of nerves and attrition.

''I know that some feel that I may be bogged down by the pressure but it is not so. Winning an Olympic medal is no longer a wishful thinking for me. I want to win it and I will do so,'' he claimed.

On his chances, Akhil said, ''I've set the goal high for myself and right now I am thinking only about the gold medal, nothing less. Representing the country in Olympics is a dream and I want a fairytale end to it.'' He said being the senior member, ''it's my duty towards others. Jitender, especially is very fond of me and in fact both of us have a similar style. To be honest, I'm banking more on him to win a medal. He's young, faster and even stronger than me. The only thing he lacks is experience.'' Akhil is known to make punches count, as he did at the Bangkok qualifiers and earlier in two Commonwealth Games 54-kg final bouts, and knows that a chance at Olympic glory is a once-in-a-lifetime chance.

The Athens Olympics first-round exit is distant memory for the Indian, who is happy at the improvement in frequency of punches and increased range of his right hand, after working with Cuban and Indian coaches in preparatory and competition phases in the build-up to Beijing.

He, however, was unhappy that despite his good showings he has not got promotions in his department saying, ''I think I deserve it because I have done much more for my country than many other sportspersons.'' Interestingly, he has already got an offer to become DSP from Haryana government.

UNI HSB RAR ND1404

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