"I replaced my inexperience with training and won World Championship medal" — Boxer Akash Kumar
After his bronze medal win in the World Championships, boxer Akash Kumar speaks exclusively to The Bridge and shares experiences and future goals.
Just a fortnight ago, Akash Kumar added another feather to the crown of Indian boxing when he won the only medal for the country at the AIBA World Boxing Championships 2021. The 22-year-old impressed with his attacking prowess at the Worlds, where he secured the bronze after defeating Rio Olympic silver medallist Yoel Finol of Venezuela 5-0.
As soon as the referee raised his arm signalling the win, Akash pointed his arms towards the sky and roared in jubilance, demonstrating his confidence. "The medal is the result of the incredible training I had gone through. No matter whatever the situation was, I never stopped training, initially in Bengaluru and later in Pune during the second lockdown phase of COVID. I filled the gap of experience with training that lifted my confidence of winning this medal," says Akash in an exclusive interview with The Bridge.
That moment of ensuring a medal was particularly palpable in Akash's eyes, who was experiencing plenty of emotions after living up to his late mother's dream. She had passed away just one month, and Akash came to discover the news only after he came back to his home in Paluwas Village in Bhiwani (Haryana) after winning the gold medal at Nationals. He says, "My mindset was always positive. Yes, the personal tragedy had shaken me, and I was crestfallen. But then I remembered what my mother used to say. She always pushed me to win a medal for India and make the country proud. This is what kept me going through the entire World Championships. I gave the best I had."
Up against the Venezuelan in the quarterfinal bout, the Haryana lad displayed his punching and showmanship, which were simply outstanding. The fearless youngster scored on counter-attacks with a non-existent guard and taunted his opponent, all this while staying out of his range with terrific pace and footwork. "My strategy in the quarterfinals was to win the first round at any cost. I went on attacking mode from the first round and was aggressive on my stance, and didn't lose my defense as well when needed. The first-round win automatically gave me an edge, and I could bout freely with confidence, thus securing a win," says Akash. He adds, "The semifinal defeat was probably a reason fo my lack of experience. I could have read my opponent, Kazakhstan's Makhmud Sabyrkhan, better had I got more time or more international exposure ahead of the Worlds."
It has not been a month since his victory and Akash has already started light training at his home, where he was greeted in a celebratory mood by his family members and villagers. "The celebrations went on for almost a week, which I did not expect at all. The reception that I received when I touched down in India was heartwarming. But I know this is not the ultimate success. I have already started training at home and soon will be shifting back to Pune at the Army Institute of Sports," says Akash.
The 21-year-old, who is the seventh Indian boxer to win a medal at the Worlds says he seeks his inspiration from his senior boxer Manish Kaushik, who had been a constant support for the pugilist throughout his entire journey, be it about boxing or life in general. Kaushik, a bronze medallist at the 2019 World Championship, called Akash up to congratulate him on his medal win "Manish bhaiya wished me success, but he also said that he expects a lot more from me in the coming days. I simply want to channelise these expectations into my motivation, and my next big goal is a medal at the Commonwealth Games next year."