Akhil eyes Asian Championship for featherweight debut

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/o/olyakhil1.jpg' class='caption'> Back from a conditioning camp in South Africa after going up a division, Akhil Kumar said he will make his feather weight debut in the Asian Championship.

Updated: March 27, 2009 12:15 IST
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New Delhi:

Back from a conditioning camp in South Africa after going up a division, Olympian boxer Akhil Kumar on Monday said he will make his feather weight debut in the Asian Championship in June.

The Haryana-boxer, who went 3 kgs up from the bantam weight division after winning the World Cup bronze medal in December, says he does not expect instant success in the new division.

"Four to six weeks from now, I will be ready to compete and in all likelihood, my featherweight debut will be in the Asian Championship in June. I don't know what the results would be like after the category change, I may even lose initially because it's not easy to go up a division and adjust instantly," the 27-year-old said in an interview.

"It will be a test similar to the one I endured while changing from flyweight to bantam weight," he added.

In almost a fortnight-long camp sponsored by the Mittal Champions Trust and overseen by renowned physiotherapist Heath Matthews in Durban, Akhil said he worked on improving his endurance but it would be some time before he regains the sharpness in reaction and the all-important rhythm inside the ring.

"Boxing was never an easy sport but it has become all the more tough with the new three-rounds-of-three-minutes-each format. The stress will now be on endurance and this is precisely what I worked on in South Africa," Akhil said.

"But being a counter-puncher, I rely heavily on quick reaction and rhythm and these two areas need to be worked upon as I have changed my division," he said.

Akhil said he would not make the mistake of rushing back into competition immediately like his protege Jitender Kumar, who has also graduated a division to bantam from flyweight.

Jitender lost in the opening round of the last week's A K Mishra International in Chandigarh, his first competitive event since making the division change.

"He should have waited. After the conditioning camp in South Africa, he should have trained in Patiala for at least four weeks before entering competition. New format, new division, it all got just a bit too much for him too handle," he said.

Akhil said boxing's changed format will benefit defensive pugilists, who keep their guard up while fighting.

"But I am not going to change. I will still fight with my guard down as it has become my strength and identity after Olympics. When I started out, keeping a low guard was considered a weakness in my game but I have made it my strength. Besides, this daredevil style has also got me so many admirers," the diminutive boxer quipped.

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