Meet the men helping Vijender Singh find professional success

Jul 16, 2015, 08:33 IST | Amit Kamath

While promoter Francis Warren will take care of Indian star boxer's commercial success, trainer Lee Beard will handle pugilist’s transition to professional boxing

As India's most successful male pugilist Vijender Singh makes the switch from being an amateur boxer to a professional, two men in his corner, promoter Francis Warren and trainer Lee Beard, shoulder the responsibility of his success.

India's Vijender Singh (centre) with trainer Lee Beard (left) and promoter Francis Warren at the Phoenix Market City Mall yesterday after a training session. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi
India's Vijender Singh (centre) with trainer Lee Beard (left) and promoter Francis Warren at the Phoenix Market City Mall yesterday after a training session. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi 

In professional boxing, it's as important to work the audiences and sponsors, as it is to work the opponent in the ring. While Francis, son of legendary promoter Frank Warren, will take care of the former, Beard, who has trained boxers like Ricky Hatton previously, will help 'Viju' become a champion in the ring.

Matching opponents
"First and foremost, my role is to ensure Vijender is comfortable in his new Manchester home. Then, it's down to me to arrange his fights. Vijender will make his debut in late September or early October in a four-round contest and it's my job to ensure that he is matched properly. Not in a way that he wins all his bouts, but in a way that he is capable of progressing and developing as a professional boxer.

As his promoter, I also have to raise his profile, ensure he gets sponsorship, take care of TV and radio rights and other commercial aspects of boxing. But the first thing is to get him boxing," Warren told mid-day yesterday while his newest recruit engaged in a training session with Beard in front of 100-odd fans at a city mall.

Promoter's dream
"There's a strategy to it: you have to get a boxer some exposure before you get sponsors. Once we have the exposure, we'll have TV companies on board. We already have a TV broadcaster in UK, Box Nation, who will be broadcasting Vijender's fights. We have a couple of meetings tomorrow with some TV companies here," added the owner of Queensberry Promotions.

Promoting Vijender won't be difficult, felt Warren. "Fortunately for us, Vijender is a very likeable person. He's going to win people over with his skills and personality. He's a promoter's dream — good looking, articulate, polite, a great sense of humour and is great with the media.

Naturally gifted
"To top it up, he's a great boxer. In terms of selling him, I need to leave him with Lee for a while to let him develop as a boxer. Success breeds interest, so if he's winning, he will get interest," said Warren. Beard, meanwhile, will focus on helping Vijender to last the course. Professional boxing bouts are longer than the three-round matches that amateur boxers are accustomed to.

"He is a naturally gifted boxer. He has represented India in three Olympics and you don't compete at that level if you can't fight. But there's a lot of physical and mental difference between the professional and amateur level.

Defensive improvement
"I'm going to work on his defensive play, on the jab and aid his understanding of the professional game. He's got a tremendous amount of mental strength. Physically, he surprised me with his level of fitness," Beard said yesterday.

So, can Viju be as popular as Asia's pro-boxing flagbearer, Filipino Manny Pacquiao, who faced Floyd Mayweather Junior in the 'Fight of the Century' in May? "It won't be long before that happens. We're going to make him a world star," signed off Warren.

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