Vijender Singh had given up his dreams of another Olympic medal when he turned professional last year.
The International Boxing Association did the pugilist a ‘favour‘ by approving the participation of pro boxers at the Olympics early this month. The sport was one of the last bastions of amateurism at the Games.
The ace boxer is scheduled to fight Australian Kerry Hope for the WBO Asia title in New Delhi on July 16. Pros can qualify for the Olympics by participating in a tournament to held in Venezuela in early July.
Vijender Singh blew cold and then hot when questioned whether he’s like to represent India at the Games.
When AIBA’s decision was first announced, Vijender said:
“It won’t make much difference to me. As of now, I am focused on my fight on July 16. I have been hearing about this proposal from the start of this year. It’s strange that you take a decision with such little time to go before the Olympics.
First of all I wouldn’t even know how to go about pursuing this task. I would probably have to go through a federation and no one really knows what the status of the federation in India really is. It’s really difficult to prepare for a tournament at such short notice. It will probably be the same for other professionals as well. If you are a boxer who is starting his career, or even someone who has fights lined up for the future, then it will be almost impossible to get ready in time for this tournament.
You have to understand that professional and amateur boxing are two different things. It’s not that one is better than the other, but the two are very different.
Everything changes. In the amateur you only box for three rounds while in professional, you have to fight for 10 or twelve rounds. So the kind of endurance you need is much more. In the amateur game you don’t really have to pace yourself. Even your movements are different.
In amateur boxing, you are preparing to fight several bouts over many days. So your recovery between bouts is important because you have to make weight every day. In professional boxing, you are only focusing on one bout at a time with several weeks to prepare. When you make weight it is only for that fight. So it will not be easy to fight several bouts one after the other.
I feel this proposal will have a bigger impact on boxers for the next Olympics. For Rio, I don’t know if a lot of professionals will want to participate without fully knowing the risks. Things would be a lot more clearer for the next games. At that point if professional boxers know when the tournament they will have a better idea how to prepare themselves for it.
I really don’t see myself competing in the Olympics again. In four years, I hope I will be in a position where I can compete at the world level but in the professional circuit.”
The Haryanvi changed his tune a few days later claiming that he would love to represent the country once more at the Olympics.
“I will try to go to Rio. The last qualification is in Venezuela (from July 3 to 8) and I would love to be a part of it. It is a matter of pride to represent your country at the Olympics and when I am getting a chance now, why not?”
His promoter Francis Warren, however, would not entertain any such talk.
“It’s not possible for him. He has got a championship fight on July 16 and, for that, he will be training in Manchester. He will be training to excel in his professional career. If he keeps on thinking about Olympics, then I’ll be bad guy here.
The timing (Venezuela qualifiers and Asia Pacific bout) doesn’t allow him to concentrate on Rio. I won’t be comfortable with the idea. It would be a backward step for Vijender if he wants to box as an amateur boxer.
What will happen if he gets a cut or injures himself during the qualifiers? He won’t be able to fight on July 16. Who’s going to reimburse me for holding this press conference in Delhi? Who will reimburse for seven months and so much amount of money I have invested in Vijender to make him a world-class professional boxer? The effort was for Asian title, not some Rio Olympics.”
Vijender rebutted Warren saying:
“The promoters will take the decision, that’s true. But they are not the only ones to decide as they have to also consider my wish. If we keep the contract and WBO title fight aside, then I’ll have every right to discuss the matter with them. Olympics is a dream and I’ll definitely love to go to Rio.
My promoters are saying that they have spent so much money on me. Tell me, if I am not happy, then what’s the use of that money? They can’t take the decision alone.”
Notwithstanding the war of words, Vijender was well aware when he made the decision to turn pro that he could forego any chance of appearing for the country in the Olympics. He may have second thoughts right now but it’s unlikely that the contract he has signed with Queensberry Promotions will allow him to participate without their explicit permission.
Also, it’s not as though there aren’t any other real contenders waiting in line to take his amateur place.
Vikas Krishnan is vying for a spot in the 75 kg category as well and hopes to qualify via AIBA’s final qualifier to be held in Baku, Azerbaijan from June 16 to 25.
Krishnan has also qualified to take part in Venezuela under AIBA’s APB programme.
He thus has two chances to clinch a place in the Rio-bound squad.
Who will it be? Vikas or Vijender?
Will Vijender be able to convince his employers that he can do both—qualify and win his WBO Asia Title bout?
The story has all the makings of melodrama.
But there’s a feeling that the words bandied around are mere bluster—all smoke and no fire— and simply an exercise in nationalistic posturing. The sentiments expressed by Vijender are noble but impractical—given his commitments.
AIBA’s dragging their feet on the decision to allow professional boxers at the Games has not helped matters either.
Should Krishnan fail to qualify, it’ll truly be a damp squib. Shiva Thapa is the only Indian boxer to qualify so far.
We’ve already had a media circus with Sushil Kumar challenging Narsingh Yadav’s selection for Rio. God knows we don’t need another.
It’s said about the Indian monsoon: When it rains, it pours.
Indian sport has been enjoying a monsoon of sorts over the past few years.
It’s been showering leagues.
The mushrooming of leagues in various sports and their live telecast whereby converts to games other than cricket are drawn in can only be good news for Indian sport persons.
The latest entrants into the fray are the Pro Wrestling League and the Indian Boxing Council.
While the Pro Wrestling League is launched under the aegis of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) by Pro Sportify and consists of six city-based franchises each featuring 11 freestyle grapplers, six male and five female, the Indian Boxing Council acts as a licensee for promoters wishing to launch boxing leagues of their own across the country.
The council is, however, not affiliated to the Indian Boxing Federation which means that pugilists wishing to represent the country will stay out until the murkiness around the venture is cleared.
Boxers, who are past their prime, but still fighting fit are enthusiastic about the possibilities. It will add to their meager earnings from the sport.
Boxing and wrestling are sports that attract participants from lower-middle class families. This may just be their ticket out.
These sports are also the country’s best avenues for medals at the Olympic and Asian games.
The better the prospects for aspiring contenders, the better the training facilities offered and the more attractive a career it is.
The world can be their oyster. Can Indian pearls seize their chances?
Sport knows no borders.
Vijender Singh, a bronze medalist for India at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the middleweight category, has embraced professionalism.
The boxer has moved to London after signing a contract with Queensberry Promotions that will see him fight a minimum of six bouts in his first year as a pro.
The celebrated pugilist brings the curtain down on his aspirations of a medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
His current employers, the Haryana police, objected to Vijender’s move claiming that he cannot serve two masters—Mammon and the Indian public, at large.
Vijender is currently on probation as a DSP.
“I don’t want to compare myself to a legend like Pacquiao, but if I can achieve even half of what he has, I will consider myself successful.
Just like how Pacquiao carried the Phillipines flag and (Floyd) Mayweather Jr carried the US flag to their bout, I will carry the Indian flag to my bouts. I’ve taken Indian boxing to a new, untested level and opened international avenues for our boxers. This cannot be viewed as un-patriotic.”
The Bhiwani lad has always sought the limelight and is considered the glamour boy of Indian boxing.
His clean-cut good looks made him a favorite with advertisers and a brief doping (heroin) scandal did nothing to sully his reputation. The slugger also starred in a Bollywood film Fugly that released in 2014.
Vijender is not the first Indian boxer to turn professional but he could be one of the best and turn the spotlight back on a sport that has lost its luster with a disaffiliated and derecognized national boxing federation unable to send Indian fighters to participate in international tournaments.
Indian boxing needs another shot in the arm and this could very well be it.
What she said:
“Today, I can beat (up) anyone, it feels great.”
Actress and pop diva Priyanka Chopra confesses that she draws some satisfaction from her new-found ability to physically match almost anyone post training for the title role of her latest film, ‘Mary Kom’.
Chopra was all laughs claiming that building the muscles for the role “tired her”.
“But it was worth it! Building muscles can’t make you feel empowered, but stronger. I did! I have lost all my muscle now, but I still feel strong. I still believe I have those muscles. Muscles are a very superficial thing. What they did for me, honestly, was being able to learn a sport. I’ve never learnt a sport in my life. That too a contact sport. For me, it was a huge challenge to learn an entire sport. Today, you can put me in a boxing ring. I may not be able to beat another boxer, but I’ll be able to give her a tough fight. I’ve learnt it that much.”
The thespian now believes that every woman should learn some form of self-defence.
“I think girls should be able to do what they want, be free and not be worried about protecting themselves. But I think that in the world that we live in today, unless the laws that have been made to protect us have been implemented well enough, we should learn some form of self-defence just for confidence. You may not be able to beat a guy who’s coming at you, but you’ll be able to put up a fight. And that can really scare some people off. So, with that, you will be able to put up a fight, and say, ‘You cannot take advantage of me’. For some, that power comes from the gym. But one has to find an individual source. For me, it came from being agile, from learning this new sport.”
Meanwhile, Mary Kom, was all praise for Priyanka Chopra’s work in the biopic.
“Priyanka did a great job. I am very happy for her. She is the best person to fit in the role.Priyanka did hard work, and you can see the muscles.”
The five-time World champion believes that her sport—boxing— should be promoted like kabaddi and soccer.
“If people like it (film) then it could happen. Promotion is necessary. Just like kabbadi and football. The country is getting medals in individual sports like archery, weightlifting, wrestling, and with promotion more medals could come in future.”
What Priyanka Chopra really meant:
“Now, I can get my own back on anybody who messes with me—by knocking them flat on their backs. ‘Chops’ is for real.”
What she definitely didn’t:
“Watch out, Laila Ali—here I come.”