Vijender Plays It Cool
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