Deep into the second round at the boxing arena in the SECC complex, Trinidad and Tobago’s Aaron Prince had been pushed to the ropes after a massive assault from Vijender Singh.
The boxer, still reeling from the hits he had taken from the 28-year-old Indian, seemed intent on blocking his way out of the round. Perhaps Vijender sensed his opponent’s apprehension, as he prepared for another rapid combination.
The boxer from Kaluwas dropped his wrists, shedding his almost perfect defence for just a couple of moments. As he prepared to administer another whacking to Prince, the 28-year-old boxer from the Carribean swung his right arm, catching Vijender flush on the left cheek.
The guard was up instantaneously, the fists held just half an inch below the eye-line, the Haryana boxer almost looking bewildered as to where that massive right hook had come from.
The next half minute saw him battle an intense pounding as Prince seemed to glimpse an opening to impose himself. The punches were sharp, the movement incisive and in the last 20 seconds, Vijender seemed to be on the back-foot, all his efforts concentrated on holding his ground.
Vijender wrapped up the match soon after, taking Prince apart in the third round, moving him around the ring at will, throwing accurate punches and often getting Prince exactly where he wanted to. But a few times into the match, Vijender’s eagerness to attack found him running into cul-de-sacs, inviting danger.
The 3-0 result over Prince moved Vijender into the semi-final, assuring him of a bronze, but his demeanour soon after exiting the ring suggested that the trip to Glasgow had always been about settling for nothing less than the top prize.
2010 Delhi had seen Vijender sulking with a bronze around his neck, a result that had sent a few shockwaves. Perhaps Glasgow is all about reclaiming the throne.
“Today was definitely a good bout, especially for me to improve in certain areas. The change in the points system has led me to change my style of boxing, having to put more jaan (power) into my attacks,” Vijender said.
Known to possess one of the strongest defences in India, the change in the system with boxers being penalised for defending too much, has forced Vijender to adopt a more buccaneering approach. On Wednesday, it was almost like watching Vijender’s younger compatriot Devendro fight.
The 28-year-old flew off the blocks the moment he heard the bell, peppering his opponent with tight straight punches, before guiding him into the range where he could throw his combinations.
But, while Vijender’s attacking forays were encouraging, the boxer was often caught out of position, resorting at times to swinging wildly. The dropping of the wrists was perhaps the most dangerous sign, with the opponent having a clear view of his face, the Indian copping a few blows on his face but then seemingly learning from the mistake in the third round.
Boxing without headgear, one cut to the head which draws blood can see a boxer bidding goodbye to the SECC ring. Daniel Lewis, the Australian, had raged about his abrupt end in the Games on Wednesday, calling for immediate return of protective headgear. Vijender definitely flirted with danger a few times.
“There is some swelling on my face. Boxing mein toh lagni hi hai (at times you get hit in boxing), but I need to be careful. The margin is very thin and though I have to be aggressive, I can’t go over the top,” Vijender said as he made his way to the customary medical examination.
Coach GS Sandhu spoke about the technical team’s work with Vijender, focused on sharpening his attacking drive. “We haven’t had a lot of time to work, but we have tried to get a few different aspects into his boxing. Even during the competition we are constantly passing him information about his attacking stance and approach. He is learning fast, but he needs to be tighter,” Sandhu said.
Next up is Northern Ireland’s Conner Coyle, an extremely attacking boxer who likes to just keep punching. This might turn out to be Vijender’s biggest challenge so far, striking a fine balance between landing punches and saving his movie-star looks.