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Beijing Olympics bronze medalist Vijender Singh has an 8-0 record since turning professional in 2015 and the PR machinery has worked overtime to promote his fights. But he still has a long way to go before he can command respect, according to Amir Khan, the two-time world champion and Britain’s youngest boxer to win an Olympic medal — a silver at the Athens Games.
Khan, who has a professional record which reads 31-4, said that if he fought Vijender now, it would be akin to him taking a backward step.
“Vijender has not made a big noise. He hasn’t won a major title, or even half a major title, which will make people regard him as a good fighter,” Khan said in Mumbai.
Vijender had earlier called out Khan for a match, but the British boxer says people will not want to watch the bout.
“For me to fight him… it’ll be a step backwards and I’ll get a lot of criticism (if I) fight him. At the moment, it’s politically a good fight because he’s Indian and I’m Pakistani background. But in America or the UK, this fight won’t sell. But if Vijender wins a title and makes a name for himself and then fights me, people will buy the fight. They will want to watch the fight.”
Khan had turned professional 10 years before Vijender, fighting his first bout in 2005. In time, he learnt the ropes of the business of boxing, especially how to sell a bout.
“From a business point of view, you want to maximise it (the match) and make sure you can make it the best fight. At the moment, because Vijender is not that big, only in India and Pakistan will the fight be big.”
However, once the Indian grows in stature, the businessman in Amir believes there is a lot of money to be made too. “Because it’s a business, we want to shake hands and walk out, make a lot of money and leave,” Khan asserts.
The 30-year-old Khan has kept an eye on Vijender over the past few years. At the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in fact, Khan made it a point to meet the Indian pugilist. “I said ‘look it’s good that you’ve got this far. You’re Asian like me. I know how hard it was for me. So I want to come to you and give you some advice and support. Let’s go there and win that gold medal’.”
Vijender went on to win silver. And Khan would have been the biggest name in the sport present to watch the Indian in action.
As a 17-year-old, at the Olympic Games in Athens, Khan achieved the unthinkable by becoming the first ever boxer of Asian origin to win a medal. It was an achievement that broke a glass ceiling. “Nobody knew who I was. At the time, there were no Asians in sports. Then I went out to win at the Olympics and all of a sudden I became a big name. But not only for the Asian people in Britain, but even for the whites,” Khan says.
He recalls featuring in several bouts against white boxers in which he garnered most of the crowd support. “I’d be fighting against a white boxer. All the Asians were obviously supporting me, but so were most of the white fans.”
Khan is on a short trip to Mumbai, promoting his recently launched Super Boxing League – a concept with which he hopes to lure Vijender’s participation.
But for now, he’s also waiting for Vijender to build his reputation before he faces him in the ring. Till then, he’s content with being Vijender’s fan.