Will Vijender Singh’s Day of ‘Hope’ End with First Professional Title?

New Delhi: The Thyagaraj Sports Complex staff was working overtime to shine every corner of the arena, unaware of the buzz down the corridor at level two.
Professional boxing doesn’t find connect in a country where most boxers who turned pro failed to get the country behind them. But Vijender Singh is trying to change that, and if he beats Australia’s Kerry Hope for the WBO Asia Pacific super middleweight title on Saturday, the Indian will gain quite a bit of ground to bring that change.
The connect with Vijender is also because what he has achieved for India as an amateur, headlined by his 2008 Olympic bronze and world No. 1 AIBA ranking. That’s why the first major pro-boxing title fight in India has managed to grab some eyeballs.
Vijender’s opponent, Hope, has none of those amateur credentials, but he has been a professional boxer for over a decade and a former European middleweight champion.
The weigh-in on Saturday here went as per usual pro-boxing roster: the boxers stepped onto a scale, the announcer looking at the figures said “okay” and then a face-off and exchange of words to lure people into believing that the two rivals hate each other.
That’s the whole gamut of professional boxing that is more about promoters and money than the sport itself.
Adding to the glamour quotient on Saturday will be Bollywood celebrities and sports stars, chiefly Vijender’s friend and former India cricketer Virender Sehwag and Olympic medal-winning boxer Mary Kom, who will have two of her prodigies locking horns in one of the fights preceding the Vijender vs Hope showdown.
But with money involved and titles on the line, drama transforms into real blows, jabs and knockouts once the two men enter the ring.
In terms of knockouts, Vijender is a heavy favourite against the seasoned Hope. The Indian’s clean slate of 6-0 in his first year as a professional involves either knockouts or technical knockouts in all of his fights. And while Hope holds an impressive 23-7 record in his 30 fights, he has only two knockouts under his belt.
But where Hope scores heavily over Vijender is in experience.
In his 12 years as a professional, Hope has endured 183 rounds of boxing compared to just 17 so far by Vijender, and it will be the first ever 10-round fight for Vijender. But the Indian, 30, has younger legs than the Australian, who is 34.
Looking at all that, the longer the distance of the fight, the tougher it might become for Vijender.
On technical grounds, though, Vijender is taller than Hope, which gives him a longer reach when going for his jabs and he packs a punch weighing 75.7 kg compared to Hope, who is 74.9 kg.
And on emotional grounds, it will be a homecoming of sorts for Vijender, who last fought a boxing bout as an amateur during the 2010 Commonwealth Games in the national capital.
“It’s going to be special, but I am not under any pressure,” Vijender, who will climb into top 15 of the world with a win on Saturday, said.
But the real success for Vijender and his future in professional boxing depends on nothing but winning the title. Not to forget the promoters, who will want to make the most of India’s growing economy by hitch-hiking on Vijender’s success on July 16 and beyond.