Fast with the jab and frank with the gab, pugilist Vijender Singh doesn’t pull his punches inside and outside the ring.
Speaking exclusively to thestatesman.com, Bhiwani’s boxing sensation is calmly confident ahead of his massive upcoming fight against the wizened Francis Cheka on December 17 at New Delhi’s Talkatora Stadium.
Understandably upbeat after a 7-0 start to his pro boxing career, the Olympic Bronze medallist admits it hasn’t been all plain sailing.
“A lot more physical strength is required for professional boxing. No head gears for protection, longer bouts are but a few of the major differences an amateur boxer has to adjust to.”
Yet, he has managed a seamless transition from amateur to pro boxing, a feat that few before him have managed to and he is quick to warn others who feel it is easy to make the step up.
“Only those boxers who have achieved success in the amateur circuit should follow this path. My decision was taken after winning Olympic, World Championship and Asian Games medals, hence I had plenty of experience under my belt.”
Speaking of experience, Singh is under no illusions that Francis Cheka will be his toughest opponent till date.
“The guy has 16 years of pro boxing experience, which is a big plus. On top of that, he does box really hard!” he said.
So how is he so confident of defending his WBO title against the Tanzanian?
“Well, credit goes to my trainer Lee Beard, who has had a massive role in ensuring my body is able to cope with the rigours of pro boxing. Since I have shifted to Manchester, his experience of having trained the likes of Ricky Hatton has rubbed off on me big time,” Singh said.
“The training program is tough, but the rewards are there for everyone to see. We have meticulously analysed videos of my opponent and come December 17, hopefully Talkatora will be roaring my name again,” he added.
Last time he was in Delhi, a partisan crowd gave him a huge fillip, egging him to knockout Kerry Hope and he wants a repeat from his fans once again.
“The reception I got was humbling and definitely made me go the extra mile. I will strive to make it a great night for Indian Boxing,” the boxer said.
All business as usual, questions of a potential move to the cash-rich MMA are quickly brushed away as he signs off with a typically frank statement: “My immediate focus is to defend my title against Cheka and the long-term target is to reach the World No.1 ranking. That’s all I care about.”