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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Out of Africa: Vijender Singh finally gets an opponent

Vijender Singh is set to defend his WBO Oriental and Asia Pacific Super middleweight titles against Ernest Amuzu in Jaipur on December 23.

Written by Gaurav Bhatt | New Delhi | Updated: December 5, 2017 9:01:56 am
Unbeaten in nine fights, Vijender was last seen in action against Zulpikar Maimaitiali. (Express photo by Kevin D’Souza)

The plan, in January, was for Vijender Singh to fight six times this year. On December 23, the 32-year-old will take the ring for only the second time in 2017, against Ghana’s Ernest Amuzu in Jaipur. The deal gone sour with Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions in May meant a ton of matchmaking blues for Vijender and local promoters. But what’s pro boxing without a little scrambling for opponents anyway?

“It’s good to have a date and an opponent,” said Vijender on Monday. “I’d anyway been training for the past two weeks, but with a fight finalised a boxer can get in the zone. Baahar jaane waali sab cheeze band ho jaati hain (All distractions can be set aside). You prepare for the fight and you keep preparing till it’s done.”

Neerav Tomar, head of IOS Boxing Promotions that handles Vijender, says the year-end fight was always on the cards.

“The target was always to end the year with a fight, to get Vijender to 10-0. The announcement got delayed by 15-20 days because of logistics and sanctions,” said Tomar, adding that according to the World Boxing Organisation (WBO) rules, Vijender had to defend his Asia-Pacific and Oriental Super Middleweight titles in six months.

A bone of contention behind the split with Queensberry Promotions was the lack of fights overseas. After winning his first six fights in the UK in seven months, Vijender’s next three bouts were held in Delhi and Mumbai. According to Tomar, there were “a few offers” for a fight in UK, but feasibility was a challenge.

“There are offers from Frank Warren for UK. But we want the Indian audience to watch. The timing from international countries might mean they would have to watch the bout at 1:30 in the morning. Then there are the commercial issues such as TV rights. We decided we should end the year with a title defence and be on the Frank Warren’s card on 30th March or January-end. And go for Rocky (Fielding) if he’s available,” said Tomar.

The name of Fielding, an established British boxer and the current Commonwealth Boxing Council champion, has long been thrown about as a possible opponent for Vijender. Ernest Amuzu, however, came seemingly out of nowhere. The West African Boxing Union Middleweight champion is supposedly “durable and experienced” and has an amateur background. But said background consists of a first-round defeat at the 2002 Commonwealth Games and participation in the All Africa Games. According to stat site BoxRec, the 34-year-old holds a record of 23 wins in 25 bouts with 21 knockouts, but lost the only time he ever fought outside of his hometown Accra. There isn’t a lot of footage available online, save for a couple of shaky, hand-held videos. However Vijender seems prepared.

“I have seen some stuff and sent it to my coach. His footwork seems a bit slow. Other than that, I am not going to divulge any more information.”

The most reliable piece of information available is that Amuzu is orthodox. That’s enough for Vijender to build on.

“My last fight was against a southpaw (Zulipikaer Maimaitiali). Uske liye paise deke Wales ke ek southpaw boxer ko bulaaya tha (To prepare for him, we paid to bring a southpaw boxer from Wales). He was an Olympian and larger than me. We built plans, tactics and worked on endurance,” says Vijender. “Ye orthodox hai toh Faridabad ke boxers bulaaye hain (As Amuzu is orthodox, he have called boxers from Faridabad).”

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