Vijender Singh clinches WBO Asia Pacific title

In a boxing bout of 10 rounds, a gritty Vijender Singh defeated a tough opponent in Kerry Hope to win the WBO Asia Pacific Super Middleweight title at the Thyagraj Stadium in New Delhi.

Vijender Singh came out on top in the longest bout in his pro-boxing career so far.   -  R. V. Moorthy

A packed Thyagraj Stadium got more than it had bargained for as Vijender Singh became the WBO Asia Pacific Super Middleweight champion with a convincing win over Australian Kerry Hope here on Saturday even as pro boxing made a rousing start in the country.

Vijender remained unbeaten, this time by unanimous decision, even though his reputation as the ‘Knockout King’ took a backseat. It was also his toughest fight yet, stretching to the maximum 10 rounds at the end of which he was as drained as his opponent.

Cautious start

The win also saw Vijender climb to 15th in the world in his category even as the former world number four Hope looked rusty and unable to counter Vijender’s well-timed punches. It was a cautious start from both before Vijender landed a couple of soft blows to ease into the attack.

He slipped in the second round but that was to be his only stumble. A couple of upper cuts in the third round were matched by a few lusty hits to the head by Hope but by the seventh round, both looked to be keen on conserving energy to last the distance.

The last two rounds saw both digging deep and Vijender, with his superior reach and dodge, managed to stay ahead.

London Olympics bronze medallist Mary Kom received a standing ovation but there was little to excite in the build-up. The real excitement began with the bout between Australia’s Cameron and Devdarshan for the Super Welterweight category which the former, a CWG 2010 participant and unbeaten on the pro circuit so far, won to extend his winning reign.

Hiccups in organisation

For the first professional boxing bout in the country, however, the organisation itself left a lot to be desired even though a capacity crowd made the entire event a success. A day before, Vijender had exhorted people to go out and buy tickets, and clearly his appeal had worked.

But vacant seats in certain sections and oversold tickets in others meant there were chaotic scenes among the audience before the spectators were adjusted across the hall. People walked into restricted areas including media zone with impunity, threatening those present and forcibly occupying seats claiming to be guests of sponsors. The announcer kept mixing up the names and the weight categories to add to the confusion.

Sanjeev remains unbeaten

Sanjeev Sahota, another boxer from the ranks of promoter Francis Warren who also manages Vijender, remained unbeaten as well in three fights with a victory against Vikas Lohan. Interestingly, the former is a British national but for the cheering crowds, he was as much a homeboy as anyone else.

A much-superior Siddhartha Verma taunted, toyed around with and pinned Dilbagh Thakran to lift the IBC Super Welterweight Championship Title fight and become the country’s first-ever professional boxing title holder.

The event was not short on the celeb factor. From films (Randeep Hooda) to sports (Mary Kom, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh) and politics (Rahul Gandhi, Vijay Goel), every area of public life was represented even though chants of Modi, Modi when Gandhi walked in must have embarrassed the organisers.

As a novelty, the event was clearly a success. As a measure of gauging a nation’s readiness for pro boxing still remains to be seen.

The results: Asif Khan bt Sachin; Sunil Siwach bt Natdanai Pengthong (Tha) by KO; Sumit Rangi bt Naveen Rao; Gaganpreet Sharma bt Deepak Sheoran; Cameron (Aus) bt Devdarshan; Kuldeep Dhanda bt Vachayan Khamon (Tha); Sanjeev Sahota (UK) bt Vikas Lohan; Nengneihat bt Boichong; Siddhartha Verma bt Dilbagh Thakran.