Vijender Singh tells The Indian Express why he thinks he will be successful as a professional boxer, why he could not wait till the end of the Rio Games before making the shift and what are the challenges that he will face in order to be successful. Excerpts
When did you decide you wanted to turn professional?
When I first started boxing in my village Kaluwaas, I had no ambition of being a professional boxer. I didn’t even know what that was. Once I started training seriously, the goal was always going to be the Olympics. Finally after winning the bronze medal at Beijing, I was told of Madison Square Garden and about some of the great fights that have been held over there. Then that too was something I wanted to do. That became my dream.
Do you think you could have waited until after the Rio Games before your decision?
Everything comes at its own time. I could have turned professional after the 2012 Olympics as well and for the same reason I could have started my professional career after Beijing. Over the last few years, I kept getting busy in one thing and then the other. At one point of time my family would keep me busy and at other times I would be busy in my acting career. Recently when I shifted to England to train, I was planning to return to India and get back into the national camp. But in England I had the time to think and I decided to make the shift. It wasn’t something that I had been planning quietly for a long time. It was something that actually materialised only over the last week.
Do you feel satisfied with what you have achieved in your amateur career?
I have achieved what I had to in amateur boxing. When I won an Olympic medal, it motivated a lot of young boxers. I don’t want to say that I am a big hero or anything but I want to think that I have opened a door for young boxers as well by showing them that they too can make a career in professional boxing. I don’t have any regrets. I feel excited about the decision I have made.
Have financial considerations played a role in your decision?
I am not doing this for the money. I have made plenty of money back in India. I am at the stage in my life where I am up for a challenge. I don’t feel that I have to prove anything to anyone. I was able to show that Indians could be among the best amateur boxers and now I want to do that in the professional ranks. My goal now is to win a world title for India. It may take some time but I will give it my best efforts.
At 29 do you feel that you are making a late start?
I don’t feel that I am making a late start to professional boxing. You may say that I am old, but I have a lot of experience. In my career I would have fought at least a hundred bouts at the international level. It will be all about adapting those skills. You only need heart. I will box as long as I am injury free.
You are an employee of the Police. Do you have any fears about how your job may be affected by losing your amateur status?
I don’t think that it will be a problem. Haryana Police has always been supportive of me in the past and I don’t see why it will change any time in the future. I will take permission from the DGP of Haryana Police before I begin my professional career.
What are the challenges you are preparing for as you turn professional?
This will be a new start to my career. I was a very successful amateur fighter but there will be challenges in the professional boxing. Bouts will be longer. I plan to take things step by step. I will start off boxing four round bouts then six round bouts and then eight round bouts. I will have to work really hard but iska bhi mazaa ayega.