Akash Kumar keen to win Olympic medal to fulfill mother’s dream

“I am happy that I won the medal for the country but at the same time, I am sad because if I could have shown this to her and put it around her neck, she would have been very happy and proud,” says world championship bronze medallist Akash Kumar.

Shockwaves: Akash stunned Rio Olympics silver medallist Yoel Finol Rivas of Venezuela in the World Championship quarterfinals. “I enjoyed the bout and boxed according to a strategy. He was a very good boxer and an Olympic medallist, but I dominated him with my attacks in the first round,” Akash says.   -  Special Arrangement

Akash Kumar became the seventh Indian male boxer to land a bronze medal at the World Championships when he won the bronze medal in the 54kg category in Belgrade in October. The 21-year-old, now, has set his eyes on fulfilling his departed mother’s dream of winning an Olympic medal.

READ: Boxing World Championships: Akash Kumar bags bronze

Akash — the fourth man from Haryana’s boxing nursery of Bhiwani to bag a World championships medal — spoke to Sportstar about his journey so far and his plans.

You went through a lot of ups and downs in the lead-up to the World boxing championships. You lost your mother, became the National champion, and then went on to get the World Championships bronze medal. How do you look back at the phase of your life?

The last few months were both good and bad. I lost my mother during the National championships. I cannot believe that she is not there with me anymore and I have won the (Worlds) medal because of her blessings. I am happy that I won the medal for the country but at the same time, I am sad because if I could have shown this to her and put it around her neck, she would have been very happy and proud. I tried to fulfill her dream. Her dream was to see me as an Olympic medallist and I will try my best to fulfill it.

Has this personal tragedy made you mentally tougher?

I have become mentally stronger after losing my mother. She always told me that whether I get good results or not, I must focus on my game and try to win medals for the country. ‘You do your best, rest is in the hands of God,’ was her advice. That’s why I just focus on my training.

You have worked with the Services coaches, including chief coach Narendra Rana. Did that help you in the World championships?

It helped a lot as the same coaches were your coaches at an international event. They know your game, your attack, defence and technique. I try to learn from all the coaches. They know everything about you. Every coach teaches you something new.

Which was the toughest bout for you at the World championships?

The toughest was the quarterfinal bout (versus Yoel Finol Rivas of Venezuela). But I enjoyed the bout and boxed according to a strategy.

He is a very good boxer and an Olympic medallist, but I dominated him with my attacks in the first round. The pressure was there but coaches had said, ‘If you trust yourself and win the first round, then you will do well. Have confidence.’

How was the night after you won the medal? Were you emotional?

I was very emotional, I could not sleep. I was thinking about winning gold, my next bout and, other things.

Support system: Akash with (from left) High performance director Santiago Nieva, chief coach Narendra Rana and assistant coach Devendro Singh.   -  Special Arrangement

 

Who is your go-to man for personal and professional issues?

I speak to my tauji (Bhawar Singh) for personal and professional needs. If I become sad sometimes I also speak to (my first coach) Sanjay (Sheoran) Sir about my game.

You have spent a lot of time in the Army. How much of the Army’s discipline has helped you as a boxer?

I owe everything to the Army’s discipline. The way we keep our focus and practise without getting distracted is because of the Army’s discipline. During the coronavirus (outbreak) time, we could continue with our practice. The Indian Army had a big role in it. We start boxing with the first lessons of discipline. If you are disciplined, then you can become a good boxer. Army life has a big role in it.

How did you become such a fearless fighter?

I was not like this from the beginning. When I became a sub-junior National champion, I became fearless. I try to dominate the bout and attack from the beginning. I have been boxing for the last 10 years and I have gathered enough experience at the National level and I have developed a mindset to win. This was my first exposure at the senior level and I got a lot of experience from this to know how to box in the future.

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Who is your idol in boxing?

Prince Naseem (British professional boxer). He has the same style with guard down and he boxes fearlessly. I have learned a lot from him. Manish (Kaushik) is my idol from Bhiwani. I want to box like him.

What’s your next target?

I want to improve. I will work on my game for that. I want to focus on my defence, and counterattacks. My next target is winning gold at the Commonwealth Games.

Are you thinking of changing your weight category?

I am not thinking about changing weight now. But if there are 10 weights in the Asian Games, then I will change to 57kg. My normal body weight remains three-four kg up (from 54kg).

How do you unwind?

I relax and listen to music — Punjabi and Haryanvi music. Even if I go for a fight, I listen to music. It helps me a lot.

I owe everything to the Army’s discipline. The way we keep our focus and practise without getting distracted is because of the Army’s discipline. If you are disciplined, then you can become a good boxer. Army life has a big role in it.