New Delhi:India's best bantam weight boxer for the past six years, Olympian Akhil Kumar on Tuesday said he would go up a division next year to vacate the 54kg category for his protege Jitender Kumar (51kg).
Talking to PTI on his return after winning a bronze medal at the World Cup in Moscow, Akhil said he didn't want to block Jitender's progress. Besides, Akhil said, he was also having trouble maintaining the bantam weight for quite some time.
"I am changing to feather weight (57kg). Jitu is very close to me and he also needs to change from fly weight (51kg) to bantam weight," Akhil said.
"I cannot be standing in his way," he added.
"Besides, I believe my results and fitness level would be better in feather weight division," said the 27-year-old Haryana pugilist.
"And if we compete in the same division, Jitu will thrash me. He is the stronger between us," quipped Akhil, an Olympic quarterfinalist.
Maintaining fly weight was becoming a headache for Jitender as well and the diminutive 22-year-old boxer said he does not fancy starving in order to retain his weight.
"It's a tough task. Lot of dietary issues are involved. I cannot starve myself to maintain weight," explained the chirpy boxer, who also won a bronze in Moscow.
The change will, however, be slow and under the watchful eyes of the coaching staff and chief coach G S Sandhu admitted that Akhil and Jitender needed a change in their divisions.
"I know Akhil is tired of maintaining bantam weight and the same goes for Jitu. I will speak to them during the national camp next month and then we will decide," he said.
Assistant coach Jaidev Bisht said the duo would have to first test themselves in a few invitational events before finally making up their mind. "They will first try themselves at a few not-so-important events and then they will know whether they are good enough in new categories. Their bodies will tell which category they are best suited to," he said.
The boxers' South African physio Heath Matthews said the duo should go up a division if it translates into better results.
"We are looking to maximise the boxers' performance. If going up a division helps their performance, then why not? My job is just to take care of their fitness and if they think, going up helps that, then I am OK with it," he said.
The man most likely to be affected by Akhil's decision to change weight division is A L Lakra, the bronze medallist in the World Cup, but he says he ready to compete for his place in the team.
"It doesn't worry me. I am not going to leave my weight. I am ready to compete for my place. Rest the coaches will balance," he said.
Akhil and Jitender, meanwhile, decided to distribute a share of their World Cup prize money of USD 2,500 each to the coaching staff comprising -- Sandhu, Bisht, Ramanand and C Kuttappa.
"We will give USD 500 to each of them as these people matter the most. They wipe our and blood and sweat and put in the effort to prepare us for the toughest in the world. They are the unsung heroes. And it is our way of acknowledging what they are doing for us," said Akhil.
"I have decided to give my medal to Mittal Champions Trust as souvenir for supporting me through my darkest days of injury and wilderness," he said.