Prefight trash talking is a time honoured tradition of professional prizefighting. The average spectator is far more willing to put out cash to pay for seats in an arena or switch on a TV channel broadcasting the fight if he believes there is some emotional investment by the fighters in the ring. For viewers familiar with more genteel sports, the appearance of animosity may lead to expectations of toe to toe action with no quarter given.
Part of the learning curves for boxing viewers is to find out that the nature of the words exchanged before a fight has no guarantee of the outcome or even the competitiveness of the event. Vijender Singh’s third professional fight with Bulgarian Samet Hyuseinov is a good example of this.
Prior to the fight Hyuseinov had called Vijender an actor-boxer for his stint with Bollywood. He had dismissed his opponent’s illustrious record at amateur boxing circuit and said he would beat his rival convincingly and leave Vijender’s ‘beaten and broken’.
A quick look at the Bulgarian’s far from impressive 7-7 professional record should have caused his fighting words to be taken with a healthy dose of scepticism. And as it turned out, Hyuseinov simply couldn’t back up his talk in the ring.
If you were simply hoping for a win for Vijender, you would not have been disappointed. The Indian picked apart his ultra-defensive opponent in the first round. However, barely 35 seconds into the second round of what was to be his maiden six-round contest, Vijender cornered Hyuseinov with a flurry of combination punches to force the referee into stopping the bout. A competitive contest this was not.
It’s hard to make out, apart from making his record a perfect 3-0, what Vijender would have taken from this fight. He was ostensibly fighting his first six rounder but never looked like needing even a fraction of all those rounds.
The quality of his opponents though is hardly Vijender’s fault or even that of his management, which is looking to build up their fighter. The Indian has steadily improved from his first contest against Sonny Whiting when vestiges of his amateur days clung to his game.
Against Hyuseinov, his movements were confident but measured. His right hand stayed steady up against his side waiting for his left jab to rock the Bulgarian hard and create an opening. Once that was done, the right quickly swung into action and whiplashed into his body. He wasn’t punching at the target like he had done in his first bout but was punching through in the manner of a professional.
Hyuseinov for his part, was giving up three inches in height. Unable to deal with Vijender’s jab, he didn’t have an alternate plan and scarcely threw a punch over the course of the first round even as Vijender’s right hand thudded all to frequently. If one must nitpick, it would be that Vijender wasn’t as accurate as he is capable of being, but his opponent seemed happy to cover up and didn’t capitalise.
The second was little different. Hyuseinov was almost instantly backed into a corner where Vijender, looking to get things over with quickly, unloaded a flurry of punches. The second in the barrage — a left hook to the body — caused Hyuseinov to crumple to the ground. This in turn saved him from further punishment for the last few blows glanced off the top of Hyuseinov’s rapidly descending head. Vijender would likely have recalibrated his aim to devastating effect, but the referee quickly stepped between the Indian and the cowering man in the corner of the ring.
After his loss, Hyuseinov was a lot more humble towards his opponent — reaching out for a handshake. Vijender though was less conciliatory. “Before my bout everyone was asking me that your opponent speaks a lot about giving you tough time in the ring, but I think now my punches have replied to him and it will be a lesson for future opponents also,” he said after the bout.