Bradford’s Harris Akbar is looking to grasp his opportunity on the big stage, as he aims to prove he is the man to step into the large shadow left by Pat McCormack by claiming gold at the European Championships in Armenia this week.
Akbar previously represented GB at the World Championships in Serbia last year and he believes that he is capable of going far into the tournament. Akbar will get his tournament underway on Thursday when he faces the winner of a first round clash between Montenegro and the Netherlands.
“This is my second major as a senior and I feel like I’m coming into my own. I was always behind Pat McCormack before, but now it’s my time to show what I’m all about. This is a big chance to stake my claim as the man at my weight and show I’m ready to emulate Pat. His medal haul at the top tournaments for GB was unreal and I’ve learned a lot of him but now I’ve got to show what I can do.”
“This is the stage we all want to be at. In a way this is our theatre and it’s time to put on a top performance. Going to the World Championships was great and showed me where I need to be. I’ve had two tournaments since then and loads of fights so I feel I’m in a good place for this one.”
Akbar has benefitted from travelling to Tokyo as part of GB’s contingent for the Olympic Games. He has stated the experience has been a catalyst in driving him on to succeed and establish himself as one of the top fighters in the world.
Akbar was on the squad when the world shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic and has stated it was very difficult to remain on track. However, as the opportunities to fight again started to come back, he has got himself back into shape and is eager to prove he is the man at 71kg.
It will be a new weight for Akbar, who previously fought at 69kg, but following the addition of more women’s weights for Paris 2024, which then saw the removal of some of the men’s weights. He is well aware of the constant pressure in the squad and battle for places, which will be evident in Armenia as also competing in his weight class are Wales’ Garan Croft and Scotland’s Stephen Newns.
“I saw what it was all about when I went out to Tokyo and helped out with the preparation and I want more of that. I’m forever grateful for all the experiences I’ve got in GB but going out there has made me even more hungry to succeed.”
“It was tough during Covid, like it was for everyone, as there was very little motivation and no tournaments, so you were eating and not doing everything right, but as soon as we got the word from Rob McCracken that something was coming, you were straight back on it and driving yourself back into shape.”
“You want to prove you are the man at your weight because there is a pecking order and other lads behind you. You mess up, they will pick up the crumbs and take your spot and if you drop down that order then your chance of competing on the biggest stage could be gone, which you definitely don’t want to happen.”
“I’m up at light-middleweight now after the weights got changed for the Olympics. They’ve taken 69kg out of the programme so for me it was a choice of 67kg or 71kg and it was a no brainer. I’ve got time to grow into it properly and maintain myself. I can drink water and not feel dried out like I was at 69kg. 71kg was the right decision, as I would have just been down to the bare bones at 67kg and I’m ready to put down a statement.”