Commonwealth Games: Bradford boxer Harris Akbar poised for exciting quarter final against Olympic bronze medallist Aidan Walsh

Bradford boxer Harris Akbar faces one of the biggest tests of his young career as early as the quarter finals at the Commonwealth Games.

A freak of the light middleweight draw pits the newly-crowned European champion against Olympic bronze medallist Aidan Walsh, representing Northern Ireland here.

The pair have never fought at senior level but Akbar’s first recorded fight in 2013 was against Walsh in an England-Ireland international at Woods Hotel in Westport.

The stage will be a little different this time with a partisan crowd set to descend on the NEC on tomorrow.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - AUGUST 02: Mohammed Harris Akbar of Team England celebrates victory in the Men's Over 67kg-71kg (Light Middle) - Round of 16 fight on day five of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games at NEC Arena on August 02, 2022 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Luke Walker/Getty Images)

Akbar said: “This is what I’d have hoped to be the final.

“It just goes to show how hard the Commonwealth is. It’s one of the toughest divisions and it says everything when you’re up there competing.

“It’s going to be a clash of styles for sure, but we’ll see who the better man on the day is.

“It’s not going to be about styles, it’s about who is the better man.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - AUGUST 02: Jessie Lartey Lartey of Team Ghana and Mohammed Harris Akbar of Team England exchange punches during the Men's Over 67kg-71kg (Light Middle) - Round of 16 fight on day five of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games at NEC Arena on August 02, 2022 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Luke Walker/Getty Images)

“Hopefully the home crowd will be different, the English are going to bring it.”

Akbar was untroubled in his round of 16 opener, taking victory over Ghana’s Jessie Lartey by unanimous decision, roared on by home support.

He said: “It felt good. Get the first one out of the way, open the lungs. That’s all it is really. It just felt unbelievable being in there.

“We’ve never had this atmosphere before.

“You must get used to it, even in the walkout, trying to get in the right frame of mind. The crowd can really motivate you and that’s all I did in there, enjoy myself.”

It feels like Akbar has never come down from the high of May’s victory in Armenia, England’s only gold medal at the championships.

He said: “It’s the self-belief more than anything. The self-belief I have, I can’t even put it into words. If I put in my best performance, no-one will beat me.”

Despite being an Olympic medallist, Walsh is not feeling the pressure. He said: “The public put expectations on you, but I’ve no expectations on myself.

“Away from an Olympic medallist I’m a normal person, I love kayaking, I love going to McDonalds, I love Chinese, going to my caravan and doing normal things. I think my life stayed the same. I spent less money than I did before I won an Olympic bronze medal, I go out less than I did before.”

Walsh beat beat Lesotho’s Arena Pakela by unanimous decision in his last-16 tie to set up the exciting bout with Akbar.

He added: “I just want to enjoy it to be honest, regardless of winning and losing. All the time we focus on gold medals, but you neglect the enjoyment of it.

“Good performances lead to good things. The team’s great and it’s a great honour to be captain of the team.”

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