Vijender's big day

By registering a spectacular win over British boxer Sonny Whiting in his debut bout in the Manchester Arena, Vijender has made his leap of faith all the more convincing.

India's Vijender Singh celebrates after defeating Sonny Whiting of Great Britain in their International Middleweight contest at the Manchester Arena.   -  Getty Images

Vijender lands a stiff right on Sonny Whiting of Great Britain in their International Middleweight bout.   -  Getty Images

Vijender Singh has a big heart. He dreams big and has got the courage of conviction to achieve it. By being the first Indian boxer to win an Olympic medal and the first male Indian pugilist to clinch a World Championship medal, Vijender had ignited ambition among a generation of young bullish Indians to excel in the tough sport.

Now, he has made a mark in the world of pro boxing and will spur many to don their gloves and turn pros.

It was a courageous decision on the part of Vijender considering that he chose to forego his amateur status and the chance to participate in another Olympics in order to be in the limelight. But he had bigger glory in his mind.

None of the Indian boxers — such as Venkatesan Devarajan, Dharmender Singh Yadav, Gurcharan Singh and Rajkumar Sangwan — who jumped into pro boxing in the past could make much of an impact in that tough world. A few who tried their hand in the International Boxing Association (AIBA) created semi-professional league World Series of Boxing (WSB) have not tasted much success either.

However, Vijender, who hails from a lower middle class family in the nondescript Kaluwas village in Bhiwani district of Haryana, was able to make an impact even before he stepped into the boxing ring for a pro bout. Or else, why did a private television channel book its slot to air an Indian professional boxer’s fight live?

Vijender’s mental flexibility has kept him relevant in all phases of his more than a decade-long career. He has adapted well to all the changes and dealt with the hardest of situations with ease.

Promoter Francis Warren recognises Vijender’s commitment. “There is no doubt in my mind that he has what it takes to be a very successful professional boxer, not only due to his undoubted natural talent but also due to his drive and focus. He has a clear idea of what he wants to achieve.”

By registering a spectacular win over British boxer Sonny Whiting in his debut bout in the Manchester Arena, Vijender has made his leap of faith all the more convincing.

Vijender, highly inspired by the Sylvester Stallone-portrayed Rocky Balboa, was always attracted by the glamour of boxing and kept track of the latest trends in professional boxing.

He was keen to make India proud in the pro circuit and when the real opportunity came to him after so many years, he was not the one to step back.

On display on that Saturday night was the Haryanvi’s valour and confidence, which has carried this handsome boxer through the ups and downs of life.

It might be a bout which got over too quickly, in the third round when the referee stopped the contest, from the point of view of pro boxing, but it unveiled before the world a new Vijender full of hunger and aggression.

“I am very happy with this win, it’s just a beginning,” said the 29-year-old Indian after his victory over Whiting.

“I have to go a long way. I will work more hard and have to be a professional champion one day. I never get nervous during a fight. My punches have replied to Sonny Whiting in the ring. It is new for me, but I have been working hard. I want to win, win and win.”

While opening a new chapter in his life, Vijender, who fought in tri-coloured shorts, did not forget his ambition for his country. “I have to cover a long way and will continue my hard work.

“I want my country to be known in the professional ring,” said Vijender, whose next fight is slated for October 30.

Vijender turning pro has coincided with another welcome development which is likely to create the right kind of environment for spreading awareness about pro boxing in India.

Former Indian Amateur Boxing Federation (IABF) Secretary General Brig. P. K. Muralidharan Raja, armed with his newly-floated Indian Boxing Council (IBC), has big plans to start a pro league in the country and it may herald a new era for Indian boxing.

After Vijender’s entry into professional boxing, there is already a lot of interest among boxers to turn pro and make money.

Here, the IBC, which plans to have competitions from the city to the National level, can play a role in popularising professional boxing and changing the mindset towards it. “We want to put in place a system to provide the boxers an opportunity,” said Raja.

If this moment triggered by Vijender is channelised in the right manner, it will surely help pro boxing carve a niche for itself among the closely followed sporting disciplines in India.