For Mandeep, Akhil is friend, sponsor, guide

In 2004, the then 12-year old Mandeep Jangra was training at Boys Scout Company and a visiting Akhil Kumar, who would go on to win gold at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, was impressed enough to take him under his wings. On Sunday, as Jangra claimed the light welter (64 Kg) title in the senior nationals, he touched his waist belt, inscribed by Akhil, in a mark of respect.

"Akhil Bhai offered to support my training and undertook all my expenses. My father was a mason at that time and could not afford my training. Whatever I am today is because of Akhil Kumar. And I wanted to prove that today," said Mandeep, who scored a one-sided 11-3 win over Manish Pawar of Delhi in the 64 kg finals.

A regular face in the Haryana teams in sub-junior and junior teams in the last decade, Jangra made his senior debut in 2010 and claimed a silver medal in Super Cup in the same year before winning gold in the AK Misra International Championship. Last year the youngster was signed by the Mumbai franchise in the World Series of Boxing. Earlier this year, Jangra had been a part of the national camp, but it was just for a month as it broke up for the Olympics. But with the current national camp set to begin on November 14 in Patiala, he believes he has done enough to impress the selectors.

"I could attend the national camp for only a month but the experience was overwhelming. For the first few days, I could not believe that I was training along with Vijender Singh and Akhil Kumar. If I get in again, I hope I will utilise the opportunity to the fullest," said Jangra. Railways claimed the overall championship with 43 points while Services, with 39 points, had to be content with the second spot.

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