WBO title bout: Vijender Singh's homecoming to be against ex-Euro champ Kerry Hope

Mark your calenders! Keep aside everything on July 16th. While some lucky few will get a chance to watch the event live, others will have to content themselves with watching it on TV. What is it, you may be asking?

Well! On July 16, Indian boxing star Vijender Singh will take on former European champion Kerry Hope in the eagerly-anticipated WBO Asia title bout to be held in the national capital.

The 30-year-old Indian has been unbeaten since turning pro last year, winning all his six contests so far via knockouts. Former world No.1 Vijender is also the bronze medallist in the 2008 Olympics and the World Championships 2009.

Aussie Hope, on the other hand, brings with him experience of 30 bouts, of which he has won 23, two of them knockouts.

The Welsh-born Hope, who emigrated to Australia, was also a WBC middleweight champion and has moved a division to super middleweight to take on Vijender.

"He is a superstar in India but to me he is just a boxer. He has been pro for a year, I have been pro for 12 years. I
bring a lot of experience. I know the crowd will be behind him but I like being the underdog. The pressure is on him. He has to train harder," the 34-year-old Hope said at a press conference.

He will be the biggest name and most experienced fighter to enter the ring against Vijender till date. "I have been world No.3 in the past. I have heard about his achievements but all that is in amateur. I am an experienced operator in the pro circuit," he said. 

Vijender's two promoters -- India-based IOS and UK-based Queensberry Promotions -- revealed that the tickets for the bout would go on sale from tomorrow. The first ticket for the bout was presented to former Indian cricketer Virender Sehwag, a longtime friend of Vijender.

"Even in cricket, it's a lot of fun to beat Australians. So, I hope Vijender beats Kerry," quipped Sehwag while posing with the ticket.

Queensberry Promotions' Francis Warren said he expects the 10-round contest to be a tough one for Vijender.

"There will be two four-rounders, two six-rounders, and an eight-rounder before Vijender's title bout on that day. I think it is a tough fight for Vijender but at stake, apart from the title, is a place inside the top-15 of WBO rankings. That would pave the way for a world title bout for Vijender soon," Warren said.

The tickets have been priced from Rs 1000 to Rs 15,000.

The bout was originally scheduled for June 11. However, it was postponed due to logistical issues. 

The bout will be held at the Thyagaraj Stadium, which has a capacity of nearly 6,000, and Vijender has already invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi, cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar and several other dignitaries for what promises to be a mega-event. 

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