Vijender Singh "totally prepared" to defend his title

Vijender Singh will be defending his WBO Asia Pacific Super Middleweight title at the Thyagaraj Stadium, in the same venue where he defeated Kerry Hope in a hard-fought battle for his maiden title about five months back.

Vijender Singh has been training in Manchester to prepare for this bout.   -  PTI

“All set. Totally prepared. Totally ready.” Vijender Singh uttered these words with utmost conviction just before his trip to New Delhi to defend his WBO Asia Pacific Super Middleweight title at the Thyagaraj Stadium, in the same venue where he defeated Kerry Hope in a hard-fought battle for his maiden title about five months back.

While Vijender arrived at the Capital from Manchester on Sunday evening, his challenger Francis Cheka of Tanzania will reach today for the December 17 showdown.

The boxer from Haryana who made the transition from amateur boxing to a pro career over a year ago, has reaped immediate rewards. His opponents bawled, intimidated him and predicted his downfall, but he always managed to have the last laugh — a knockout blow being his preferred mode of answering their threats.

With seven wins in seven bouts since he became a pro-boxer over a year ago, six of them via knockout, Vijender sure looks like the ‘King of the Ring’ for the moment, but he is in no mood to slacken.

Ever since the challenger to his title was revealed, the 2012 Olympic bronze medallist has been training meticulously in Manchester, his new abode. Sparring sessions, punch bag routines, conditioning exercises, track and pool - he has his sights set on retaining the title in front of what will be a boisterous home crowd. “I have to be ready for everything, physically and mentally. For that, I have to train hard,” he said.

He has more help in hand now. John Joyce aka ‘Jono’, another UK-based trainer, has joined his team and is helping the Indian with his fight, along with Lee Beard, for the last one month. He has also been training with an army of sparring partners to test his stamina and skill. “Jimmy, Craig...Pakistani boxers settled in UK, they have all been pushing me to 12 rounds to keep me conditioned.”

On specific plans to negate the 34-year-old Intercontinental champion, Vijender said he will opt for offensive tactics. “I have seen his videos on Youtube. He seems defensive, so I have to be more attacking. I have been working on that,” he said.

He has his arsenal ready for the big fight, but it is the ability to control his mind which he feels will be the most important. “I think that’s my strongest weapon. Without it, you can’t go till 10 or 12 rounds. It’s all about how you save your energy. If it’s a long fight, you should be fit for that. Your mind will control your body, so your mind should be stronger than your body. You should be more focussed. I think mind will play a big part in the performance,” the Arjuna and Padma Shri awardee said.

Part of preparation also involves following a strict diet to keep his weight under 76.2kg, which is the limit for the Super middleweight category. He has been on a high-protein diet and has been off sugar. But he knows it will be difficult to keep up with his diet plan when tempted with Indian food. “My weight is fine now. I obviously can’t say no when they offer me sweets. It’s India we are talking about. I will probably just work out harder,” he chuckled.

The Tanzanian, who has survived 16 years in pro-boxing with a 32-9 record in his 43 bouts, has threatened to finish off Vijender’s career, but the Indian is not interested in the usual war of words anymore. “I am mature now, not a child. I don’t bother about verbal wars. People always ask me to say something in return. What should I do? I can always say I will knock him out. That’s easy, right. But I believe in hard work. When the time comes, we will know who is the best,” the 31-year-old said.

Their first face-off will happen on December 13 in Delhi, the date of the first press conference, and he assures he will not bow down when confronted directly. “If we are in the same space, it (having a go at him) may naturally happen,” he said,promising a feisty spectacle for the fans who will be rooting for him in Delhi.

He will also be catching up on some football action from the ISL semifinal between Delhi Dynamos and Kerala Blasters on Dec 14 before the crucial weigh-in on Dec 16.