Akhil wary of banana skin bout

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/o/olyakhil1.jpg' class='caption'> India's Akhil Kumar will take on Umpteen Davids in the quarterfinals of the bantamweight event on Monday.

Updated: August 22, 2008 09:00 IST
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Umpteen Davids have slain many a Goliath in the world of boxing and Akhil Kumar, standing on the threshold of history, does not want to step on a banana skin and miss out on his first Olympic medal on Monday.

For someone who has beaten the world champion in his previous round, Monday's quarterfinal bout against the relatively unheralded Veaceslav Gojan of Moldova should ideally be a cakewalk.

Akhil, however, refuses to lower his guard and says underestimating opponents can often be fatal.

"You never underestimate an opponent, much like you never get overawed by his reputation," the bantamweight (54kg) boxer, who is just one win away from an Olympic medal, said on Sunday.

"A number of great players have bitten the dust just because they took it for granted. The Russian world champion (Sergey Vodopyanov) made the same mistake and underestimated me. See who reached the quarterfinals.

"It's a cardinal sin in any other sport and I'm not going to step into the ring thinking he would serve it on a platter," the Haryana boxer said.

Even before he boarded the flight to Beijing, Akhil has been insisting that he would not settle for anything less than gold. Asked if that was arrogance, Akhil said he is aware of the fine line that separates confidence from complacency.

"I'm not complacent at all. I'm just confident, confident of my ability. I want to be the first Indian boxer to have an Olympic medal dangling from his neck and that just cannot happen if I am not confident enough.

"Tomorrow is my medal bout, it's too big an occasion to get complacent. And I'm confident because I know I'm not complacent," Akhil said.

The 27-year-old has not faced Gojan before but the boxer says he has seen enough recordings of the Moldovan.

"I'm thankful to Doordarshan, they provided me some of those recordings. I'm consulting my coaches and formulating a strategy. All I can say is that I would not turn up under-prepared tomorrow," he asserted.

Though overwhelmed by the deluge of wishes flowing from all quarters, Akhil is hurt by the way boxers are treated back home and he pleaded all to provide financial security to pugilists.

"I'm not sure if I would be read and listened to if something untoward happens in tomorrow's bout. But I know people would listen to me today. So I don't want to take a chance and urge all to provide security to the boxers.

"I work with the Railways but if I buy a pair of boxing shoes, I've to worry how to meet my monthly expenditure. Promised promotions never actually materialise and it's worse with other boxers," said Akhil, sounding bitter.

"I don't aspire for private jets or trendy cars. I just want decent jobs for boxers and some financial security for them, so that they can concentrate on their craft," he added.

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