Hard-hitting Indian middleweight Vijender Singh is preparing for a heavyweight collision outside the ring by taking on his country’s addiction to cricket.
The 26-year-old police inspector defeated America’s Terrell Gausha 16-15 to move within one win of repeating his historic feat of four years ago when he collected India’s first ever Olympic boxing medal with a bronze.
Vijender has striven to try and get boxing more attention in a country where cricket is the sport that brings people together and attracts the financial muscle.
He is particularly riled that even with his success — he is also a former world bronze medallist — and with the emergence of several other useful boxers like Manoj Kumar, that little has improved in terms of infrastructure. “Thanks to the media, people have started taking boxing seriously over the past two years,” he said.
“Everyone knows my name now because my achievements have been highlighted. But boxing is still not promoted in India. We don’t have boxing academies, we don’t even have proper boxing rings. I have lost count of the times I have approached the government and the sporting authorities for support, but nothing has happened.
“In this country, everyone is hung up on cricket. Forget about boxing, India is doing so well in other sports too. But where is the support for all of us?,” he told the Kolkata Telegraph.
“Come on, we boxers aren’t that bad either. We’re smart, intelligent and decent looking too. I’m working really hard to make my country proud. I hope someday my turn comes, too.”
Vijender’s chances of giving Indian boxing another huge shot in the arm rest on his being able to overcome the useful Uzbek Abbos Atoyev, who beat him in the 2009 world championship semi-finals.
He says that he is ready to deliver and does not feel too weighed down by the expectations of the millions of Indians back home.
“Everyone is tuning in to their TVs in India and watching me. It is a great honour but also puts on me a huge duty to reward their faith that they placed in me.”