As a promoter, do you try to make Vijender Singh the best boxer he can be, or do you use his appeal to try to create a professional boxing market in India?The two agendas can co-exist, of course, but its fair to contend that there may be some dissonance here.,As a promoter, do you try to make Vijender Singh the best boxer he can be, or do you use his appeal to try to create a professional boxing market in India?The two agendas can co-exist, of course, but its fair to contend that there may be some dissonance here. So much so that one wonders if Vijender, he of 10-0 fame, has missed the bus. How long will he keep fighting no-name boxers for small-time belts?The facts: Vijender has beaten everyone he has faced so far. The seventh win, against Australian Kerry Hope, got him the vacant WBO Asia-Pacific Super Middleweight belt. He has held on to it, retaining it three times, while adding the WBO Oriental Super Middleweight title to his bag.Not bad at all, you can only beat the opponents you get. But the men Vijender has beaten so far are unlikely to instil fear in many top-drawer boxers, and thats also a fact. Lets run his last three opponents through BoxRec.comwhose rankings are widely acknowledged as more reliable than those of the WBO, WBA, WBC, IBF and so on. Francis Cheka is ranked 236 in the world, Zulpikar Maimaitiali 94, and Ernest Amuzu 213. Beating them shouldnt have been too tough for Vijender, ranked 43, and it wasnt.If youre wondering what really is going on, wait up. Boxers at the professional level do start with easy opponents, its part of the game. The record looks good, the ranking goes up, and then come the tough ones, the bouts that test the boxer; its make-or-break territory, no place to hide.advertisementVijender is at that stage now, and things must change fast. That is the tricky bit. In July, British boxer Rocky Fielding, mostly under the radar and fighting the sort of opponents Vijender has been to run up an almost-all-win record, went up against Tyron Zeuge, the holder of the regular WBA Super Middleweight title (as opposed to the super title held by Britains George Groves since 2017). Fielding won, knocking out Zeuge in Round Five. Watching Zeuge vs Fielding, youd think Vijender would have acquitted himself well enough against either of them, his defensive, guarded style a nice contrast to their more attacking game. Even if that didnt happen, Vijender would have been contending for a serious belt for a change.Now, the clincher: there were talks of a Fielding-Vijender fight. It never happened. I would have liked Vijender further along the road by this point, accepts Francis Warren of Queensberry Promotions, the managers for Vijenders fights outside India.There was a fight lined up in July all right, against Lee Markham, for the Commonwealth belt. It didnt take place because of an injury to Markham, but this is an interesting one: Fielding held the Commonwealth title till the other day and then vacated it in the hope of bigger deals, which is the reason he didnt fight Vijender. The latter isnt too perturbed with his progress, and is lining up his next fight in September against a big opponentwait for the announcementfor the Commonwealth title.If anything, not fighting Fielding is a positive, he argues. Thats a good thing. I am not disappointed at all. Because he is the world champion now, I will go for the world title against him now. I know I need to start fighting the one-two-three guys now. No regrets about missing the fight earlier.Vijender sounds cheerful and puts up a confident face, but even as Warren says he is extremely happy with what his fighter has achieved so far, the promoter admits, we are three-four months behind with him. And time is at a premium. At 32, he is a year away from the age at which erstwhile super-middleweight Andre Ward retired, and at least two years older than any of the reigning champions.The good thing from Vijenders point of view is that three-four months arent make or break in pro boxing, whereonce we get to the 12-roundersone or two fights a year is par for the course. We arent worried too much, says Neerav Tomar of IOS Sports, Vijenders managers in India. If Warren and Tomar are to be believed, Vijender is moving towards a big title fight. Whatever international title is available, says the Indian gentleman. WBO title fight in the next 12 months… potentially a world title, adds the Englishman.One wonders if, at some level, the dual management set-up is pulling Vijender in different directions. But its fair to trust Warren, one of the most experienced voices in pro boxing, when he says, Vijenders skill level is very, very high. He has the experience of boxing for a very long time at the amateur level. He is a superstar in India. Id like him to be a champion. Boxing aficionados in India will be hoping that happens, even if its slightly later than we all hoped for.advertisement
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