A WEEK ago, Vijender Singh excused himself from the ongoing national camp in Patiala to train for October’s World Championships in a competitive environment in England. Turns out he may not return again.
Speculations are rife that the Beijing Olympics bronze medallist may bring curtains down on his India career after it emerged that he is close to turning professional and sign up for reputed British boxing promoter Francis Warren. An announcement is expected on Monday at a press conference in London.
Vijender had been given green signal to train at Queensberry Promotions, owned by Warren, from June 25 to July 12 by chief coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu. He was to rejoin the camp on July 13 and also take part in the selection trials for the Asian Championships on July 14. However, the coaches and federation officials back home are completely in the dark. “He had informed us that he will train in the UK at his own expense. But we are not aware of his plans to turn pro,” Sandhu said.
Vijender’s father Mahipal Singh Beniwal too declined to comment. “Yes, he has gone to England for training. But he is the right person at this moment to tell about all this. Whatever development happens, Vijender will tell all after he comes from England. He is big enough to make his own decisions,” Beniwal said.
As per the rules, once a boxer turns professional he cannot compete at an amateur level. The International Boxing Association (AIBA) allows only those boxers who are a part of its pro boxing competetion, APB, to compete in the Olympics.
Calls and messages to Vijender and his management firm remained unanswered. However, Mail Today quoted Warren’s media manager Richard Maynard as saying: “Boxing promoter Francis Warren will host a press conference on Monday, June 29, when a major announcement will be made regarding India’s boxing sensation and 2008 Olympic medallist Vijender Kumar. The 29-year-old hotshot is currently one of the hottest stars in Asian sport and the exciting news to be released on Monday will thrill the millions of adoring fans he has at home, in the UK and around the world.”
In his decade-long career, Vijender has managed several firsts. He became the first Indian boxer to win an Olympic medal when he won bronze in Beijing. In 2009, he was ranked world No. 1 in middleweight category and went on to add Asian and Commonwealth Games medals to his tally. However, his performances have been rather unconvincing of late.
Vijender’s decision comes at a curious juncture. For the last three years, there have been reports of him planning to change his weight category from 75kg to 81kg. After losing in the quarterfinals of London Olympics, Vijender had said he would compete in the light heavyweight (81kg) category in the 2013 World Championships but it did not materialise after he could not manage his weight.
At the same time, young boxer Vikas Krishan also posed a big challenge. The 2010 Asian Games and world youth championship gold medallist shifted to middleweight category and won a bronze medal at the Incheon Asiad last year after Vijender pulled out.The growing competition between the two forced the coaches to rethink once again, and earlier this year, they mulled over the option of moving Vijender to 81kg once again. “Vijender and Vikas are both medal contenders. If they both stayed in 75kg, we could have used just one. Since there is no such competition in 81kg, we thought Vijender would be better off in that category,” a coach said. Vijender, however, shot down the idea saying his movements slowed down if he increased his weight.
How well he adapts to pro boxing, which demands higher physical fitness compared to amateur boxing, remains to be seen. But the glamour and money associated to it might also have lured Vijender, who is known for his flashy lifestyle.Warren is one of UK’s biggest boxing promoters, managing the likes of Dereck Chisora, Amir Khan, Nigel Benn and Ricky Hatton, among others.