It’s been over a year since Vijender Singh last stepped into a ring for a professional boxing match. Now the Olympian is set to face Ghana’s Eliasu Sulley in ‘The Jungle Rumble’ – the first professional boxing fight to be held at the Balbir Singh Juneja Stadium, Raipur on August 17.
The 36-year-old, who has been training for the last 19 months since his last bout, has been raring to go with with the bout-date soon approaching.
Since turning professional in 2015, Vijender had gone undefeated and was on a 12-match unbeaten streak before his Russian opponent Artysh Lopsan handed him a first loss with a technical knockout in the fifth of the eight-round contest in the Indian boxer’s last bout.
His next opponent, Sulley is the reigning national West Africa Boxing Union Champion and has a 100% knockout record in the 8 bouts that he has competed in and will be looking to increase his unbeaten record.
This time around, the bronze medallist from the 2008 Beijing Olympics says he has been pulling out all stops and implementing final touches to his training in Manchester before he flies down to India to compete.
Here are excerpts from the interview with Scroll.in:
Nearly a year away from boxing, what does it feel like to be heading back into the ring?
It’s training, it’s tiring is what it’s like. It feels good to be back after so long, we tried something new after we lost that last fight quite badly. But we’re alright and we’re back into the ring. It’s all starting again so it’s all like the start of a new chapter.
Since the last fight, what is it that you have been working on?
I’ve specifically been working on my endurance. I think it was not that great last time and I’d feel like giving up in the sixth or seventh round (laughs) but I’ve worked on it this time around.
You had an unbeaten streak that ended in the last time, how tough or easy is it going to be to restart it this time?
It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to take a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication, focus and determination. I can say that, for sure. But we will do it. I’m a 100% sure that we will bring back the winning streak again. Nothing’s impossible in this world, right?
How did you spend your time away from the ring?
In my time away from the ring, I’ve just been thinking about how I lost that fight and how I should come back. That was the main thing. I just wanted to fight back as soon as the last fight happened and now that it is happening, I feel like I am well prepared.
Do you think about that loss a lot?
Of course. I mean, not a lot but there’s this thought in my mind that how could I lose to a boxer who is not that great… but I think the circumstances were like that. My team couldn’t travel, they couldn’t come to the UK for training and I don’t usually go without my team. Boxing is a serious business so I don’t prefer doing it without them. I learnt a lesson, I can say that.
Are you with the same coaches this time around?
Yeah, I am working with the same team, same everything. I don’t like changes much. You can say that I am old school so I prefer the same energy (around), the same routine and same team. It gives me more confidence heading into a fight.
What are your immediate and long-term plans for professional boxing?
After this event, I am thinking of going in for another fight some time in November or December. We are planning to go for at least two fights in a year and so this year, we are aiming for another one in November. And as far as professional boxing goes, I want to get the same winning streak back and continue till it goes up.
Based on your own seven-year experience, what would be the lesson or advice you would give someone looking at professional boxing?
It’s all about hard work. There is no shortcut. Just prepare yourself and don’t take any opponent lightly. It’s professional boxing, anything can happen in a punch.
Do you think an event like ‘Jungle Rumble’ being played in a place like Chattisgarh is going to have an impact on boxing as a sport?
Yeah, of course, thanks to CM Sahab Bhupesh Baghel ji, who took the initiative to do this. I think it will, especially for the young crowd. There’s a lot of young energy there. He believed that there’s a lot of talent there for archery, hockey so he wondered if there is some scope for boxing there too, so I showed him around the nitty gritty of boxing and that’s how it came to be. I do hope that it will inspire the youth in Raipur.
When you step into the ring this time, what are you most looking forward to?
I am just looking to rock and roll again, that’s it. My aim is to inspire the youth and take up boxing as a career and eventually, win an Olympic medal in the future.
The bout will be broadcast on Sports 18 Khel and streamed on Voot. The Jungle Rumble will also see Faizan Anwar, Sachin Nautiyal, Karthik Satish Kumar, Ashish Sharma, Gurpreet Singh and Shaikhom Rebaldo in action as the undercard fights.