Akhil ready to wow home crowd

Beijing Olympics quarter-finalist Akhil Kumar still remembers the last edition of the Commonwealth Federation Boxing Championship in Glasgow in 2005. Akhil had an injured left hand before the semi-final bout and to make matters worse, fractured his right wrist with one round still to go in the gold-medal bout. But despite the injury, the Indian had emerged triumphant, beating South Africa's Bongani Mahalangu 18-17 to win the gold medal.

Curiously, another wrist injury during last year's world championships in Milan almost marred his chances of making it to the squad for the Commonwealth championship starting in Delhi this week, but the 27-year-old boxer is raring to go in front of the home crowd.

"In Milan, I was playing in the feather-weight category for the first time and got injured during my first-round loss. I spent almost three months in South Africa with physio Heath Mathews and he did a great job. Last month, in the Champions of Champions event in China, I felt completely fine, and my body is in great shape at the moment," says Akhil, who is back into the bantam-weight category.

Akhil says taking the top spot in Glasgow had helped him to be in perfect shape ahead of the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games, where he had won another gold for what was his 11th international medal. "The Glasgow final is something I cherish. I had a small fracture and Mahalangu was playing very well. It was my open guard that gave me a chance to attack," says Akhil, who has been picked ahead of protégé Jitender Kumar for the Delhi event.

After women's boxing was included in the 2012 London Olympics, the bantam-weight limit has been raised to 56kg from 54kg and a lot of boxers in the Commonwealth championship will take part in that class after having moved either up or down. Like Akhil, Scotland's Michael Roberts has recently shifted from featherweight to bantam weight and along with Beijing bronze medallist Bruno Julie from Mauritius, whom Akhil defeated in the Melbourne final, will be the Indian's biggest challenger. "Both of them are aggressive boxers. Julie is known for his fiery starts and I'm looking forward to facing him," Akhil says.

Nine Indians in semi-finals

Junior world championship bronze medallist Shiva Thapa's loss was the lone disappointment as nine Indians advanced to the Asian Youth Boxing Championship semi-finals in Tehran, Iran.

Venkat Giddi Nagarjun (57kg), Harpal Singh (64kg), Sumit Sangwan (75kg), Devendro Singh (48kg), Srinivas Surbetti (51kg), and Vikas Kishan (60kg) will play their semi-final bouts on Tuesday.

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