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.
Eighth season of Pro Kabaddi League to begin from December 22 in Bengaluru
The organisers of the Pro Kabaddi League announced on Wednesday that the eighth edition of the league will be held here from December 22. It also said that the entire season will be conducted without the presence of spectators for the matches.
Mashal Sports, the organisers of the league, have scheduled triple headers on the first four days. The season will kick-start with U Mumba facing Bengaluru Bulls. The second match will be the league’s ‘Southern Derby’ as Telugu Titans lock horns with Tamil Thalaivas while UP Yoddha will be squaring off against the defending champions Bengal Warriors in the last match of the opening day.
The triple-headers will be only-Saturday affairs throughout the whole duration of the league, starting at 7:30pm, 8:30pm and 9:30pm respectively. The schedule of the first half of season 8 has come while the organisers say that the second half of the league’s schedule will come in mid-January next year.
Keeping the health and safety of players in mind amid COVID times, the organisers have converted the entire venue at Sheraton Grand Bengaluru Whitefield Hotel & Convention Centre into an integrated and secure bio-bubble.
All 12 teams will be staying and playing at the same venue in order to follow and adhering to the safety protocols set by the authorities.
Laxman finally agrees to head NCA: Sources
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has managed to convince former cricketer VVS Laxman to head the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru, sources said.
After Rahul Dravid took over the post of Indian team’s head coach, there were reports that Laxman might be appointed as a new head of NCA.
However, later it was said that the former batter “is uninterested”. But now he is ready to take the charge after the BCCI officials held a meeting with him in Dubai.
“There were some issues and it has been sorted out. The board wanted him to take the reponsibility and he is the right man to come in place of Dravid,” sources said.
It is also learnt that Laxman has also agreed to leave the lucrative commentary career for the NCA.
“Laxman is currently mentor of IPL team Sunrisers Hyderabad, apart from being a commentator and cricket analyst. And he will leave it all for NCA now.”
Everyone had written us off; we are here to rectify that: Finch
Australian captain Aaron Finch has conceded that not winning the ICC T20 World Cup title so far has been a sore point with the Kangaroos and the final against New Zealand later on Sunday is the “best opportunity to rectify that”.
The closest Australia came to winning the T20 World Cup was during the 2010 edition held in the West Indies, where they lost to England by seven wickets.
“It’s one that’s eluded us in the past, and the fact that we are here in the final gives us the best opportunity to rectify that. Yeah, I think it will be a great game against New Zealand. They are a great side and they have been in all the finals over the last six years. Looking forward to it,” said Finch ahead of the title clash.
Finch added that despite critics writing his team off, the way the players had gone about their business was heartening.
“Everyone had written us off but we had a lot of confidence within. We’re really confident the way that we were preparing, the way that our strategy was coming together. Yeah, I think it hasn’t defied expectation. I think we came here with a really clear plan to win the tournament, and we still feel as though we’ve got the squad to do that.
“Well, I think the spirit among the team… and that’s been really impressive the way we’ve gone about our business. Everyone has prepared really well. Everyone has had a really defining match or match-defining performance at some point. The guys are really up and about for the final,” said Finch.
Finch added that batting stalwart Steve Smith’s form wasn’t a concern despite the fact that the former skipper has been unimpressive so far in the tournament, and the team management has drawn flak for persisting with him.
“No, not concerned one bit about his (Smith) form. He’s a world-class player and he’s someone in big games has showed how valuable he is. He’s been hitting the ball as well as I’ve seen for a long time, so no, no concerns there whatsoever.”
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