In 2009, Vijender Singh was officially the world’s number one amateur middleweight (AIBA rankings) and, a decade on, the Indian sensation expects to be sat on a similar perch in the professional arena.
Last month the sub-continent’s poster boy produced a sizzling display to stop Rochester foghorn Sonny Whiting in the third round of his paid bow at Manchester Arena and this Saturday at Dublin’s National Stadium he moves to the second rung of the ladder when he faces Nottingham’s undefeated Dean Gillen in a scheduled four rounder.
‘I’d done everything I wanted to do in the amateurs,’ says the humble six footer who medalled at the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, World Seniors and 2008 Beijing Olympics.
‘I’ve no idea how many amateur contests I had or what my record was. I began boxing training in 1998 but didn’t have my first contest until 2001, when I was about 16.
‘But I’d already attended three Olympic Games and won a medal so decided to give my time and hard work to the pro game. It’s the right place for me.’
This June the part-time catwalk model who has already starred in Bollywood movies signed a professional deal with Queensberry Promotions and re-located to Manchester where local coach Lee Beard was commissioned to oversee his transformation between the codes.
‘I’ve always been a thinking boxer but professional boxing is a far more brutal sport and you must fight harder,’ says the Deputy Superintendent of Police in his native Haryana, northern India, who turned 30 last week.
‘Right now I’m focussed on learning a new process and it’s lovely. I spar three times a week and at the start I admit it was difficult. They hit me very hard!
‘No one is perfect. There’s technical adjustments to be made. Lee is a very good trainer who adds little techniques without making big changes. In particular, my footwork has needed to change. I can’t jump around the ring. That said, many pros I spar are not used to my movement. I’m also working hard to build endurance; spar six or seven rounds.’
Away from the gym, the easy-natured prospect has adjusted effortlessly to Mancunian culture, if not its climate!
‘Here, my life is very easy, solely about boxing; train, eat, sleep! The only downside is your damp weather. Right now, it’s a bit too chilly,’ he quips.
‘I stay in an apartment in central Manchester which is very convenient. I love the environment and enjoy the city. I go to the mall and watch Bollywood movies which I adore.
‘I also enjoy all sports and love the sporting culture in Britain. On weekends I love to watch the football or the rugby. I’ve not decided on City or United yet. I love all teams, all football.’
The stylish skilster has found fight followers to be as fervent as footie fans and he can’t wait to publically showcase his wares again in the Irish Republic’s capital on Saturday.
‘I spent one month in Dublin before the 2012 London Olympics and I’ve so many Twitter friends there. It’s going to be amazing and I can’t wait to put on a show,’ says Vijender who is married to software engineer Archana and has a two year old son.
‘Unlike in India, sports fans in the UK really know their boxing. If you box well, fight hard, they love you.
‘I’ve no big dreams just yet other than to keep doing my job, keep winning. Lots of Asians love Amir Khan. Every nation needs a hero. Hopefully I can be India’s.’
Watch Vijender’s fight on the ‘Second Coming’ bill from Dublin’s National Stadium this Saturday, live and exclusive on BoxNation, the Channel of Champions, from 5pm (Sky 437/490HD/Virgin 546/Talk Talk 415 or Livesport.TV).