Commonwealth Games: Harris Akbar looking to add Birmingham gold to European title
Bradford boxer Harris Akbar says his recent victory at the European Championships has given him renewed self-belief heading into the Commonwealth Games.
The 23-year-old light-middleweight won gold at the recent continental gathering in Armenia to underline his burgeoning potential within the Great Britain boxing set-up in Sheffield.
It also showed Akbar can deliver on the biggest of stages after disappointing first-round exits at previous tournaments.
One of those was at last year’s world championships where he lost to Ukranian Yurii Zakharieiev, who would go on to lift the title. But Akbar gained revenge in the semi-finals of May’s European Championships.
“Losing in the first round of the worlds, I couldn’t think of anything worse,” Akbar tells The Yorkshire Post.
“But we went back to the drawing board, then the first couple of bouts at the Europeans I was feeling really good and by the semi-finals I was boxing the lad that knocked me out in the worlds, so I had to dig deep and believe in myself more than ever.
“In the lead up to the fight it was more of a mental game, but after I lost the first round, it became a physical battle, I had to forget everything else and just try everything I could.”
It worked, and led to an all British final against Sheffield team-mate Garan Croft, who will represent Wales in Birmingham.
“I felt really confident going into the final having beaten the world champion,” says Akbar. “I just had to relax and perform my best. Being against one of my team-mates as well, someone I’ve done thousands of rounds with, it was just a case of getting in there and performing my best.”
The two are among the favourites in the 71kg category in Birmingham, but Bradford’s Akbar goes in as a champion.
“It’s given me so much confidence. It’s more the self-belief than anything,” he says. “I walk into the gym and everyone recognises what an achievement it is, it just feels unbelievable.
“Going into the Commonwealths – I’m going in there thinking I could win it. It’s a matter of staying composed and showing everyone what I’m all about.”