Mandeep (20) and two other fighters — Manpreet Singh (91kg) and Satish Kumar (+91kg) — were recently alleged to have been favoured for selection during the trials. Fellow boxer Dilbagh Singh alleged that Mandeep’s selection was ‘fixed’ due to his proximity to Beijing Olympics quarter-finalist Akhil, who is his mentor.
Though Akhil felt Mandeep has already proved himself by winning silver at the recent Asian Boxing Championships in Amman (Jordan), winning at the Worlds will be a bigger achievement. “Barking dogs seldom bite. Dilbagh has achieved little on the international stage and has no right to pull down a youngster like Mandeep. But Mandeep is strong and will come out stronger with a medal at the Worlds,” Akhil told MiD DAY.
This is the first time Indian boxers will be fighting without headgear at the Worlds, and Akhil said Mandeep enjoyed an edge over others. “While the others have practiced without headgears only recently, Mandeep is the only boxer to have fought in the World Series Boxing (for Mumbai Fighters) where there was no headgear. Also, the WSB is a five-round affair, while the Worlds has just three rounds. So, Mandeep definitely is in a better position to deliver a medal,” he added.
The stylish pugilist though, warned that the suspension of the Indian federation by the international body could hurt medal hopes. “In headgear-less fights, cuts are more common, and often these are treated ringside by the team doctor. But since the Indian federation is suspended, our boxers will not have a doctor in their corner, so even a minor cut can cause major problems,” he signed off.