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Akhil Kumar stuns the world champion

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SHOWING HEART: Akhil Kumar fought back valiantly to beat Sergey Vodopyanov and then proclaimed he was going for the top prize.
SHOWING HEART: Akhil Kumar fought back valiantly to beat Sergey Vodopyanov and then proclaimed he was going for the top prize.

Kamesh Srinivasan

He fights back from 2-6 in the second round to tie at 9-9 and win over the judges

BEIJING: Akhil Kumar fought like a lion to beat World champion Sergey Vodopyanov of Russia in the bantamweight pre-quarterfinals at the Workers’ Gymnasium here on Friday evening. Having announced that he was gunning for gold — and it did not matter whether he met the world No. 1 or anyone else along the way — the 27-year-old Indian boxer scored a memorable victory on Independence Day, though he gave his strong band of supporters an anxious time.

Bouncing back from 2-6 in the second round, Akhil caught up with Vodopyanov at 9-9 with one minute left on the clock in the fourth and final round. He tried to score, but had to be cautious not to get counter-punched. Eventually, he won on the tie-break, with a better score on the individual points offered by the five judges.

Talking the talk

“To me there is only one medal,” declared Akhil triumphantly after the bout, even as Vodopyanov struggled to control his emotions and refused to go through the courtesy routine after the declaration of the result. He was in tears.

“It was my game, but I was getting hit on the counter-punch. Once I drew level, I tried to score but there was not much time. I was confident that I would win after the tie, but it was tough to say. I could also have also. God was with me,” said the delighted Akhil.

Conceding that he should not be talking so much about the medal yet, Akhil said that he was charged up to move ahead to the goal.

It was indeed a brave effort by the Commonwealth Games champion, as Akhil gauged his opponent in the first round when he trailed 1-2. It was the Russian who kept landing the scoring punches, accepting the invitation offered by Akhil, who rarely keeps his defence.

Pacing himself

It was a smart work by Akhil as he bridged the gap to 4-6 by the end of the second round and equaled at 6-6 immediately on resumption in the third round with a combination of straight punches and curling ones.

The crafty Russian worked to 8-7 by the end of the third round and took a 9-7 lead early in the fourth round. But, Akhil showed his class towards the end to break through Vodopyanov’s varied tactics to land the decisive blows.

“Akhil is a terrific boxer. Vodopyanov changed strategy, even fighting like a south-paw sometimes. But, Akhil gauged him well. It is a great victory for him, especially after he had trailed 2-6 against the world champion. He is capable of doing anything,” said coach Gurbax Sandhu.

Physio Heath Mathews, a South African, who has been instrumental in getting Akhil back in condition after a wrist surgery and relieving him of recurring pain later, was energetically exchanging high-fives with the entire Indian media contingent that rendered vociferous appreciation to the Indian lad for his brave effort.

Akhil will next meet Veaceslav Gojan of Moldova, for a place in the semifinals that will ensure him a medal.

Not that Akhil will like to settle for anything short of gold.

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