Vijender not enthused about pro boxing league

"Boxing is not team sport. One knockout and the boxer is out for three months rest. He or she cannot participate in any fight, so a league concept does not look possible,” said Vijender Singh of the pro boxing league.

Vijender Singh, now a popular boxer in the pro circuit with a 8-0 record, is delighted at Indian amateurs planning to follow his footsteps.   -  AFP

Vijender Singh is not enthused about a pro boxing league taking off.

"Boxing is not team sport. One knockout and the boxer is out for three months rest. He or she cannot participate in any fight, so a league concept does not look possible,” said the WBO Asia-Pacific super middleweight champion. Tanzania’s Francis Cheka suffered a third round technical knockout against the Indian in New Delhi. Mumbai is likely to be the next venue for his next bout towards the end of May.

Vijender, now a popular boxer in the pro circuit with a 8-0 record, is delighted at Indian amateurs planning to follow his footsteps.

Vikas Krishan, who won AIBA Pro Boxing (APB) Best Boxer award last year, is the brightest prospect in 75kg. 

“He will certainly succeed (as a pro) because he is an Asian Games champion and has two Olympic appearances. The biggest step for Vikas or any amateur turning pro is to get a promoter who will give you the best fight,” he said, speaking on the sidelines of TOISA awards here.

The only Indian boxer to return with an Olympic medal (Beijing 2008), he is clear that pro boxing is the way forward for the sport.

“Pro boxing is the future. Wearing headgear in the ring means people cannot identify with the fighter. Recognition comes when the public sees your face and you become a brand. Fighting behind the headgear does not work,” said the Bhiwani fighter, who's able to pull in crowds in England, where he is based.

“Indians come to watch my fights there. Curious Pakistanis mention about having seen me on television."

"Seven to eight companies have come up now (to stage bouts), fight are on every weekend across India. Sarita Devi is fighting in north-east, Pinki Jangra fighting in a southern city."

"People were critical when I turned pro, accused me of deserting India (pros were not eligible then to fight in Asian Games or Olympic Games). The perception changed with my first pro victory. The boxers are earning and kept busy throughout the year after rules changed, allowing amateurs to enter pro ranks.”

He observes that a pro career in the ring is tougher than the impression people get after seeing the Indian sensation knock out rivals.

“After seeing my winning by a knockout in three or six rounds, fans may feel boxing is easy. When I train in Manchester, there is no Indian around me. Trainers and sparring partners are from UK. Forcing yourself to come out train each day is tough. The routine is the same I have been doing for 20 years now.”

With eight pro wins under his belt in WBO so far, he is eligible to return to the Olympic ring in future. Indian boxers did not win medals at Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 is the next challenge.

“Tokyo is too far away to take a decision. I am doing something else. I am fighting 10 rounds (as a pro), if you reduce it to three rounds (Olympics format) it doesn’t suit me. A month before 2016 Olympics, pros were permitted to take part at Rio, no big name in pro boxing took part.”