Vi­jen­der Plays It Cool

The Economic Times - - Sports: The Great Games - Shamya Das­gupta

If Vi­jen­der Singh is to be be­lieved, Zulpikar Maimaitali isn’t even on his mind. All he is wor­ried about is the rank­ing, and the belts he is fight­ing for: The WBO Asia Pa­cific Su­per Mid­dleweight cham­pi­onship and the WBO Ori­en­tal Su­per Mid­dleweight cham­pi­onship – Vi­jen­der holds the first, Maimaitali has the sec­ond. “He is in­ex­pe­ri­enced, a kid, he doesn’t have the am­a­teur ex­pe­ri­ence I have, and we have been pro­fes­sion­als for the same time,” says Vi­jen­der, all blus­ter, and all con­fi­dence.

More cru­cially, Maimaitali, from Urumqi in the Xin­jiang Uyghur Au­ton­o­mous Re­gion of China, isn’t on Vi­jen­der’s mind sim­ply be­cause he isn’t sup­posed to think about his op­po­nents. That, in the pro­fes­sional world, is the job of his trainer, Lee Beard, who has stayed on with Vi­jen­der even though his man­age­ment has changed.

“I know the Chi­nese guy is a south­paw, he is un­beaten and so am I. But I don’t know too much more. Lee has seen his videos and he has worked out my strat­egy. He works on strat­egy and I go out and punch. My tech­nique changes for each fight, that’s all I worry about,” ex­plains Vi­jen­der. He adds, with a laugh and an edge of men­ace that he’s be­gin­ning to get just right, “Chi­nese prod­ucts don’t last very long.”

Bat­tle­ground Asia, set for Au­gust 5 at Mumbai’s Sar­dar Val­lab­hb­hai Pa­tel In­door Sta­dium, will be an in­ter­est­ing fight night all around. Two of In­dia’s pre­mier am­a­teur box­ers of the 2000s, Akhil Kumar and Ji­ten­der Kumar, are also in the mix, hav­ing re­cently turned pro. They will be mak­ing their de­buts on the night, Akhil against Australia’s Ty Gilchrist in the wel­ter­weight class, and Ji­ten­der against Thai­land’s Thanet Likhitlkam­porn in the light­weight cat­e­gory.

This is a throw­back to the 2008 Bei­jing Olympics, where the three men were part of an Indian con­tin­gent of five – Akhil was touted as the big medal hope, but lost in the quar­ter­fi­nals, as did Ji­ten­der, while Vi­jen­der went on to win bronze and be­come an overnight star. Close to a decade later, the three men will be back in action, to­gether, with Vi­jen­der still very much the big

Vi­jen­der Singh dur­ing a train­ing ses­sion —AFP

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