India's boxing super star Vijender Singh was made to sweat and even bleed a bit en route to beating China's Zulpikar Maimaitiali in Battleground Asia at the NSCI Dome on Saturday.
WBO Asia Pacific super middleweight title holder, Vijender also clinched Zulpikar's WBO Oriental super middleweight title as the 10-round fight was eventually scored 3-0 (96-93, 95-94, 95-94) in the Indian's favour. The fight was fraught with controversy as the Chinese boxer was pulled up twice by the referee for hitting Vijender in the groin area.
The fight began with a rather slow Vijender sizing up the Chinese, who unleashed a couple of good left-hands into the Indian's midriff in Round One. Vijender picked up pace a bit in the second round, unleashing a good right even as the kept his left hand up at all times to keep the Chinese power-puncher at bay.
Not finding a way through, the comparatively shorter Zulpikar then began approaching Vijender from below. That's exactly what Vijender wanted. The Indian smartly used his right hand to put the Chinese fighter down and as Zulpikar swung his left hand, it struck Vijender in the groin.
Zulpikar pulled up
The referee immediately pulled up Zulpikar for the low blow. The next three rounds saw both boxers build up their combinations -- Vijender got it right a couple of times even as Zulpikar hit him cleanly just once. Half-way through the fight it seemed like it was even-stevens but Zulkpikar wasn't content with the goings on. He kept rushing in for the kill and Vijender happily kept avoiding him or using his outstretched arm to keep him away. A frustrated Zulpikar once again took the route from below. This time Vijender ducked further and was hit by a low blow again. The referee warned Zulpikar again even as Vijender was awarded some time off to ease his groin pain.
With three rounds to go now, Zulpikar realised that he needed nothing less than a knockout if he wanted to win this one since he had already been docked a lot of points due to the low blow warnings. He starts to show some urgency and moved in every now and then. Vijender, however, used up all his experience and intelligence to step out of any close combat and held on till the final bell.
Vijender later admitted that Zulpikar had surprised him. "I didn't expect this one to go to 10 rounds. Lekin Chinese maal kabhi kabhi lamba chal jaata hai," he said on a lighter note.
Vijender's trainer Lee Beard put the contest in perspective: "Zulpikar began well and Vijender did well to keep him away with his left hand outstretched, as per our plan. Then, after the third round, Vijender picked up some valuable points with some good punches and from then on, we knew that he could not lose," said Beard.
Viju's token of peace
Vijender announced that he would give back the belt to his Chinese opponent as a token of peace keeping in mind the ongoing tension at the Indo-Chinese border.
"Sports always stands for unity and peace, so I would like to offer this belt back to Zulpikar as a sign of our love and respect for China. He was kind enough to give me his cap as a token of his appreciation too," said Vijender who is now undefeated (nine out of nine) in professional boxing.