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Saturday,08-May-2021

National

My main strength is power packed punches: Boxer Vijender Singh

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Seven years after winning the historic middleweight bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, ace boxer Vijender Singh turned professional in 2015. Since then the poster boy of Indian boxing has fought — and won — 12 professional bouts. His next bout is against Russian Artysh Lopsan on March 19 in Goa.

The last pro bout of Vijender, 35, was in November 2019. But before that he had taken a plunge in politics. He contested – and lost – for the South Delhi Parliamentary seat on a Congress party ticket. But even at the time he had insisted that he would never leave boxing. Then, Covid-19 pandemic stopped all sporting activities in almost the entire last year; it also shrunk resources, says Vijender.

In 2015, when Vijender — a 2009 World Championships bronze winner and 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games gold medallist — signed a deal with a London based professional boxing firm, he had the luxury of having a team of experts to chalk out his plans, ranging from his training to his diet. But he could not get his support team to India due to the pandemic situation in England.

And since neither Vijender could go overseas for training, he has largely been dependent on a talented pool of boxers from Haryana as his sparring partners. He even engaged his long-standing friend and training partner, Jai Bhagwan, a two-time Asian Championships medallist and the 2010 Commonwealth Games bronze winner, as coach.

Excerpts from the exclusive interview:

Q: How have you been training for the March 19 bout?

A: It is an eight-round bout. So, I trained for 10 rounds in one session. Moreover, we changed sparring partners after two or three rounds to have a fresh opponent that could test my skills.

Q: You said there is some injury problem. Could you elaborate?

A: I hurt my nose during training. Initially it was bad. Now it’s better.

Q: You have just one week to go for big match. Is the injury a worrying factor?

A: No. I’m doing icing. It should be fine.

Q: Your opponent (Artysh Lopsan) is taller than you at 6-foot-four-inch. You are six-foot tall. How do you plan to tackle him?

A: I did sparring sessions with boxers taller than me to build up muscle memory. One of them was a Youth Asian medal winner from Jhajjar in Haryana. He wasn’t as strong as senior the athlete, but technically it helps to learn how to stay out of the reach of your rival, and go inside to score.

Q: Any advantage you have over your rival from Russia?

A: I guess I’m more experienced than him. I have played 12 bouts and trained in America and England. My last bout was in Dubai (November 2019). All that will play a vital role in winning.

Q: What will be your main strategy against Lopsan?

A: I don’t want to reveal the details. In the first round, I will be able to observe him and then I will plan for the remaining seven rounds.

Q: What is your main strength?

A: I believe in power packed punches. Endurance is the other weapon I rely on. I like to stay calm even if my opponent is aggressive.

Q: What was the reason for engaging Jai Bhagwan as your coach/trainer?

A: He was the best choice under the given circumstances. We know each other and he knows how to push me beyond the limits.

Q: Since your training sessions were quite strenuous, did you follow any specific diet plan?

A: As an athlete, I have good eating habits. I stick to it. But when I was training in England in 2015, there were a lot of emphasis on nutrition.

Q: How challenging has it been to stay fit in times of the pandemic?

A: It was a different kind of experience to cope with. I have learned a lot to do with limited resources. There were issues of niggling injuries in the build up to the main event. All I can say is it was an uphill task to get back into top fitness.

Q: During lockdown it was difficult to train. Did you put on weight?

A: Not much. I’m close to 79kg. I should be able to reduce at least three kilograms in the coming week.

Q: For some time you have been seen in different roles. Like supporting farmers’ agitation and training at the same time?

A: Whatever I do I do with my heart. I try to go all out.

Q: What have you learnt for the farmer’s agitation?

A: Every day is a new learning experience. I’ve desire to learn more.

Q: What about your plans of setting up a boxing academy in Haryana?

A: The plans are still there but I haven’t got the land from the government.

Q: Could you share your experience on the professional circuit?

A: It is very simple. You have to be super strong to survive in the pro circuit.

National

1980 Olympic hockey gold medallist Ravindra Pal passes away

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Former hockey centre-half Ravindra Pal Singh, a member of India’s gold medal-winning team of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games, passed away early on Saturday morning here. He was 62.

Singh, a bachelor who lived with his elder sister in a joint family, had recovered from Covid-19. He had a breathing problem, and ‘felt depressed’, and had anxiety. He was shifted to an oxygen bed in a ward after having recovered from Covid, though he continued to have the breathing problem. After his condition deteriorated on Friday, he was taken to the Intensive Care Unit and put on a ventilator. He passed away early on Saturday.

“We changed a few hospitals for him, as in the other private hospitals even the doctors were careless and they didn’t provide him proper care. Finally, we admitted him to Vivekanada Polyclinic, which we trusted,” said a member of Singh’s family.

Besides plating in the 1980 Moscow and 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, Singh appeared in several top international tournaments, including the Champions Trophy in Karachi (1980 and 1983), the Silver Jubilee 10-Nation Cup (Hong Kong, 1983), World Cup (Mumbai, 1982), Asia Cup (Karachi, 1982), the 1981 India-Pakistan Test series, and the Malaysian Quadrangular series in 1980.

Singh began his international career in 1979. He was picked in the Junior Indian team for the World Cup.

Youth Affairs and Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju condoled Singh’s death.

“I’m deeply saddened to learn that Shri Ravinder Pal Singh ji has lost the battle to Covid-19. With his passing away, India loses a golden member of the hockey team that won gold in the 1980 Moscow Olympics. His contribution to Indian sports will always be remembered,” he tweeted.

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Bollywood

Anushka Sharma and Virat start Covid fundraiser, contribute Rs 2cr

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Celebrity couple Anushka Sharma and Virat Kohli have started a fundraiser campaign to help people deal with the Covid crises at hand.

The couple has collaborated with crowd-funding platform Ketto for the campaign #InThisTogether and has donated Rs 2 crore for this initiative. They aim to raise 7 crore for Covid relief in India

Talking about the same, Anushka said: “India is going through an extremely difficult time and the second wave of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic has pushed our country to a state of crisis. It is time for all of us to come together and do our bit for our fellow countrymen who are in serious need of support.

“Virat and I have been hugely pained looking at the inexplicable suffering that people are going through and we hope that this fund will aid in our fight against the virus that we are all helplessly witnessing. We are praying for everyone’s safety. We hope that you join us in our prayers to save as many lives as possible because we are all in this together.”

Virat said: “We are going through an unprecedented time in the history of our country and our nation needs all of us to unite and save as many people as possible. Anushka and I have been shocked to see humans suffering since last year. We have been working towards helping as many people as possible all through the pandemic and now, India wants our support more than ever.

“We are starting this fundraiser with the confidence that we will be able to raise substantial funds to aid those in dire need. We are confident that people will come forward to support fellow countrymen in crisis. We are in this together and we shall overcome this.”

#InThisTogether will run for seven days and the proceeds raised will be directed to ACT Grants, the implementation partner for this campaign.

“Having strong voices like Anushka and Virat help drive fundraising efforts will go a long way towards helping us realise this goal. On behalf of India’s startup ecosystem, ACT Grants is truly grateful to have them join this mission,” said Gayatri Yadav, spokesperson ACT Grants.

“We are delighted to collaborate with Virat Kholi and Anuskha Sharma for their philanthropic endeavour to support our Covid relief programme,” said Varun Sheth, CEO & co-founder, Ketto.org.

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National

Difficult to say how IPL 2021 bio-bubble was breached: Sourav Ganguly

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Indian cricket board president Sourav Ganguly said that it is difficult to say how the Indian Premier League’s (IPL) bio-bubble was breached and the report that the board got had shown that there was no breach.

The 2021 IPL was postponed this week after multiple Covid-19 cases emerged within the tournament’s bio-bubbles in Ahmedabad and New Delhi.

“The report we got is that there’s no breach of the bubble. How it happened is very difficult to say. How so many people are getting (infected) in the country is also very difficult to say,” Ganguly told Indian Express.

Ganguly said that “it is too early to say” whether there is a window available to resume the season. He also said that while there was a discussion to host the tournament in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) decided to hold it in India as there were hardly any Covid-19 cases in the country.

“It was discussed, but the (COVID-19 cases) in India in February was (virtually) nothing. It has just gone through the roof in the last three weeks. Before that it was nothing. We discussed about the UAE but then decided to do it in India,” he said.

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