Return of the king

Vijender makes World Championships team after a close fight against a determined rival.

Written by Jonathan Selvaraj | Patiala | Published: August 29, 2013 2:58 am

At the end of the last scheduled bout in the selection trials for the World Boxing Championships,the contenders and viewers slowly filed out of the boxing hall at NIS Patiala. Already on the lawn outside,Suranjoy Singh and Nanao Singh were kicking a football and were soon joined by physio Harishankar Varma. The trials,the results of which were officially to be announced only a couple of days later,had been forgotten by now and the main focus was simply a bit of practice ahead of another crucial event the next day: the weekly football match and associated bragging rights between the NIS staffers and campers,usually captained by Suranjoy. Also Read: A day after the gash,Devendro misses the cut

Middleweight boxer Sukhdeep Singh,who doubles as a defensive winger,was the next to join play. His attempt at trapping a high cross,however,failed and all he earned was friendly jeers from his teammates. Sukhdeep though had a smile on his face throughout – it was the look of a man who was at peace with himself knowing he had given his best.

It had been barely an hour since the fighter had faced perhaps the hardest bout of his career. On the other side of the ring,wearing blue,was Vijender Singh – on a comeback trail and hungry after missing several months from the camp. Although he would ultimately go down,observers in the packed hall,including some of his fellow campers,acknowledged that Sukhdeep probably gave Vijender the toughest fight of his domestic career.

For years now,Vijender has stood head and shoulders above his compatriots in the 75kg category. Most of his opponents – including national silver medalist Jaideep who faced him in the previous round of the trials – seem overawed when they stood opposite him. Sukhdeep though,showed no trace of fear. Without a headguard – the only boxer to do so – the 20-year-old national games gold medalist brought the fight to his rival.

Cautious but accurate

Both orthodox boxers are dazzlingly quick and while Sukhdeep has a viewer-friendly style while throwing combinations,Vijender is cautious but a bit more accurate. With the Punjab boxer giving up a few centimeters in reach,Sukhdeep had to get in close,bringing Vijender’s jab into play. While that nagging long left hand is a reliable scorer,Sukhdeep’s head movement saw Vijender landing sometimes while overshooting on a number of occasions.

The close-quarters nature of the duel also meant that Vijender’s right hand was in business often enough,particularly when Sukhdeep got a bit cocky in the third round and dropped his hands. Sukhdeep too landed a few combinations but Vijender,for the most part,weaved out of the way and took most of the shots on his guard. Silence had descended on the previously noisy hall when the two boxers touched gloves for the first time and that was how it mostly remained. Cheers from the crowd that greeted a clear punch were few as both boxers showed immaculate,albeit contrasting,defensive styles.

Indeed the bout didn’t produce the clear victory that makes the judges’ job easy. In what was undoubtedly a close fight,the spot on the team for a tournament like the World Championships ultimately went to the senior,more decorated rival,who looked relaxed and jovial after the bout.

In between joking how his newborn son Abir would be the first to be called – according to class role number in contrast to his own name – and recalling his struggles to drop the 12 kg he needed to make his weight category,Vijender said he would look forward to taking part in his fourth World Championships. He was gracious though in acknowledging his rival’s performance. “It is actually good to see that I have challengers and that too strong challengers,” he said.

Regardless of the outcome,there was plenty to take for Sukhdeep. “I got in close and got some combinations. At the same time,I didn’t let him hit me much. I got a little lazy in the third but overall I am satisfied with the way I boxed,” he said.

While he didn’t make the squad for Almaty (although he’ll get the official word only on Friday),there isn’t too much to worry at least about Thursday morning’s football tie. “Suranjoy will be making the team,There’s no way I won’t be picked in the eleven,” he laughs.

AIBA orders IBF to conduct elections by Nov. 4

The under-pressure Indian boxing Federation today said it will conduct a re-election and has amended its constitution as instructed by the International Boxing Association (AIBA) after the world body threatened a blanket ban on the country’s boxers and coaches following the October World Championships. “We are ready for elections. We have already incorporated whatever changes AIBA suggested in our constitution and have sent the draft to them yesterday,” IBF Secretary General Rajesh Bhandari said.

“They are free to send an observer for the elections. As soon as we get the approved constitution draft from AIBA,we would call a meeting of our general body to fix up the date of election,” he said.

AIBA had threatened to bar Indian boxers and coaches from all international events after the October World Championships if the IBF fails to hold a re-election by November 4. “Office-bearers will have to retire at 70 and there would be no more then two terms for the President and Secretary General,” he added.

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