A debut at the Madison Square Garden and a showdown with Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez are top of Vijender Singh’s wishlist as he ventures into the US professional boxing circuit with Manny Pacquiao’s coach Freddie Roach to assist his training. The 33-year-old, an icon in Indian boxing with his path-breaking bronze medals at the Olympics and the World Championships, is unbeaten since turning pro in 2015 but did not compete at all this year.
After a stint of 10 fights in the UK and India, Vijender is set to foray into the US territory after signing up with the legendary Bob Arum’s Top Rank Promotions. His debut across the Atlantic is being planned for February-March next year.
“The relationship (with Arum) goes back to two years and finally it’s a formal contract now,” Vijender told PTI in an interview here. “I have told him (Bob Arum) about my dream to debut at the Madison Square Garden. After winning an Olympic medal, I had spoken about a desire to fight at the MSG arena and when I told Bob about this, he said ‘the boy has a Madison Square Garden dream. OK we’ll see what can be done’,” he recalled.
Vijender, who has won the WBO Asia Pacific and Oriental super middleweight titles so far, will be training with Roach, a long-time coach of Filipino superstar Pacquiao — a world champion in eight different weight divisions.
Roach had a decent run in the pro circuit, winning 40 of his 53 bouts, before Parkinson’s disease cut short his fighting career at 26. “Bob introduced us to Freddie Roach and (Robert) Garcia. We discussed a lot of things and let’s see how it goes. Lee Beard (his trainer during stint with UK’s Queensberry Promotions) is still in the team but it’s not yet decided if I am training in the UK or the USA or both. We will sort it out very soon,” Vijender elaborated.
Another one of Vijender’s wishes is a showdown with Canelo, a multiple-time world champion. Canelo would be taking on Britain’s Rocky Fielding for the WBA super middleweight champion at the Madison Square Garden on December 15.
The Indian would like his clash with the 28-year-old to be a world title bout. “We discussed the idea of fighting Canelo, Bob told me, we might get that next year. Yes, next year because Bob said fighting in the US is like a back-to-back business. After August he told me, we would go for the big things,” Vijender said.
“My main aim is Canelo, I am looking for a fight with him and I am now looking for a world title fight,” he added.
All that is for the year ahead but speaking of the year that is going by, Vijender said it was largely spent training, negotiating a deal in the US and spending quality time with his five-year-old son Abeer.
“This year was a lot of ups and downs. We planned for a Commonwealth title fight but somehow, it got cancelled a week before the fight after my proposed opponent got injured…then my contract with Queensberry ended,” he said.
“I have been relaxing, doing my training, was pulled back a bit by cancellation of the title fight. I was told I would fight in either Australia or Canada but I just knew it won’t work out because the vision was not there.
“But I am never frustrated, I am mostly happy. My son is five now, he is growing up fast and he keeps me running. I drop him to school, come back with him and we do a lot of things together. So there’s never a dull moment,” he added.
On to professional matters and Vijender said his association with Arum guarantees him at least three fights in 2019 and the number can go up to five, “depending on my fitness”. There could also be events in India, which would be a first for Arum, but nothing has been cast in stone yet.
“US is a different world. It is the best boxing country, the mecca of boxing. I have explained to Bob how India works. He said our first base is US and then we might come to India depending on people’s interest.
“There could be fights in Delhi and Mumbai. I prefer Delhi because I get a lot of support here,” he said.
Signing up with Arum, a Hall of Fame member who has promoted names like Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Jr among others, is a “milestone achieved” for the Indian trailblazer and he now wants this chapter of his professional journey to be a grand one.
“I am very excited,” was his summation of the emotion right now.
On whether there is any apprehension about what lies ahead, Vijender offered a philosophical take. “Just go with the flow. Life should be like that, always believe that it might never happen again. Take every opportunity you get and go where god takes you. I believe in that. Experience teaches you,” he said.