"“When any athlete gets a medal, whether it’s national, or CWG, or Asian Games, everyone says my target is an Olympic medal. But it’s not that easy.”" - Vijender Singh
He’s a man rarely short on packing a punch – be it in front of adoring thousands, inside a boxing ring, or to the media in quieter confines. And he lives up to the billing within seconds of striking a conversation.
Vijender Singh is 33, and has spent large parts of the last three years outside India, ever since he opted to turn towards professional boxing. That doesn’t stop India’s first Olympic medallist in the sport from keeping a keen eye on where Indian boxing is headed.
There are, of course, significant positives to dwell on – Amit Panghal clinched a first Asian Games gold in the men’s light flyweight category in September, while three gold medals were won at the Commonwealth Games.
Olympic Medals Don’t Come Easy
Vijender is all-praise for the future crop of boxers in the country, but focuses on the importance of getting basics in place before setting fancy dreams.
“They are doing so far so good,” he says when asked to comment on India’s performances in 2018. “We are expecting good things from the young crowd, especially Amit Panghal, who's got the Asian Games gold medal.”
“I hope they will do better in the future and come up with an Olympic medal.”
The road to that glory – the road to Tokyo 2020, in the case of the current generation – is far from straight-forward.
“It's easy to say that my target is the Olympics, but the Olympic Games isn't easy. When you go there, that's when you realise how difficult it is.”
"“We should educate them (young boxers), have a proper plan in place to tell them this is how it goes (at the Olympics).”" - Vijender SinghMadison Dreams
Madison Square Garden. The theater of sporting theater. A venue for champions. A venue of dreams.
The dream is set to come true for Vijender in his fourth year as professional boxer. The reigning WBO Asia Pacific and Oriental champion in the Super Middleweight category signed for ‘Top Rank’ – the biggest promoters in professional boxing – in November.
Founded and owned by the legendary Bob Arum, Top Rank’s clientele includes Muhammad Ali, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao to name just a few.
"He (Bob Arum) is the best promoter in the world. It’s my dream to be fighting in USA. I explained to Bob when I met him, I told him I have a dream to fight in Madison Square Garden. Hopefully, we will fulfil that dream." - Vijender Singh
Vijender is expecting to contest his first bout under Top Rank in February/March 2018. He will enter the United States boasting a 10-0 record since turning pro in 2015.
Everyone’s Inspiration: MC Mary Kom
In the legion of Indian boxing, or indeed in the annals of Indian sport, Vijender Singh and MC Mary Kom share a special place together. They remain the only Indian boxers to have ever won an Olympic medal.
Vijender’s bronze at Beijing 2008 was followed by Mary’s at London 2012. While Vijender has set his sights to the professional arena, 35-year-old Mary continues to rule the regular roost – and won an all-time record-equalling sixth World Championship title next month.
"Six-time world champion – that’s huge for the whole nation. She is an inspiration for everyone, men and women. I always tell everyone I have only one kid but I couldn’t do itbut she has had three kids and is still a six-time world champion.That gives me a huge boost, that if she can do it, I can do it. " - Vijender Singh
Magnificent Mary provides the perfect inspiration to a year of great significance in Indian boxing – as Vijender takes his first steps towards his American dream, his fellow colleagues at home will embark upon the road to the Olympic dream, taking their first steps towards the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
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