IT was a thud so loud that Francis Warren could almost feel it. The boxing promoter was casually walking past the boxing hall of NIS, Patiala, when the sound of fist against jaw caught his attention. He stopped, glanced through the half-open door, admiring the quick, sharp jabs and the height of the tall middleweight boxer.
Warren did not meet, or talk to, Vijender Singh during his brief visit to India five years ago, just before the Delhi Commonwealth Games. But in a private chat with Vijender’s manager, he left an intriguing message for the Olympic and World Championship bronze medalist. “I told (Vijender’s manager) Neerav Tomar that if Vijender ever wanted to take the next step and join professional boxing, give me a call,” Warren told The Indian Express from London.
For unrelated reasons, Vijender parted ways with his management firm IOS soon after. Five years later, soon after he re-signed with IOS, they would complete the unfinished business. A fortnight back, Tomar gave Warren the call he had long been waiting for. They discussed the prospect of Vijender turning pro briefly before the boxer flew down and met in person in London last Monday. Warren took him to Manchester, where he practiced with other boxers under renowned trainer Lee Beard.
Assured that the 29-year-old hadn’t lost his sting, Warren decided to take him on board. And on Monday, Vijender signed a lucrative multi-year deal with Warren-owned Queensberry Promotions as he finally plunged into the professional boxing scene. “When I first saw him in 2010, his stature and body position when he threw his shots impressed me. He had a terrific jab and tremendous power in both hands. Moreover, he was very tall for a middleweight boxer,” Warren said. “He still has the bite that you need in a pro. Throughout his amateur career, he has grown in ability and continues to develop.”
Indeed, the move has a commercial angle to it as well, especially with Warren insisting ‘there is huge potential for the market’. They are also hoping to stage an exhibition bout in India next year. But at a stage when his amateur career has stagnated, Vijender hopes the move will provide a new direction.
Warren has around 50 boxers in his stable and the bouts are telecast on his BoxNation network, one of the biggest pay-per-view boxing channel in the UK.
Vijender will also be one of the chief guests for the WBA super middleweight title bout between Fedor Chudinov and Frank Buglioni in London on July 24. But it will at least be 12 to 18 months before Vijender can hope to fight the big-ticket bouts.
Till then, he will have to put in hours of toil at the gym and boxing club in Manchester under Beard. Beard, who has trained the likes of world champion Ricky Hatton and worked with Floyd Mayweather Sr, has a reputation of shaping up pro careers of several amateur boxers.
Beard is expected to work on Vijender’s foot-work, body position and the way in which he plants his feet while throwing a punch.
“He has got to change a few things. In the amateur you are always on your toes, always moving and are very active on your feet. In pro, it’s about using the power of your legs…he has to learn the biomechanics of throwing a shot,” Warren said.
Vijender will begin training under him from July 26 and is likely to make his professional debut in September. Between September and June 2016, Vijender is likely to take part in six bouts. He will begin with a four-round bout before gradually increasing the length of the fights.
“We will start off with a four rounder, build his career and record and then see where he is after those six fights. We will see if he is capable of boxing for some titles. To start with, we will look to match Vijender with boxers who will make his career progress,” Warren said.