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Chastened Vijender Singh back in the ring

Vijay Lokapally
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Making a return:Vijender Singh enjoys a game of volleyball at the SAI centre in Sonepat.— Photo: S. Subramanium
Making a return:Vijender Singh enjoys a game of volleyball at the SAI centre in Sonepat.— Photo: S. Subramanium

He yearns to wear the robe and take the ring amidst applause. The ring is where he belongs — punching, weaving in and out of the opponent’s reach and making an impact with his endurance and spirit. Boxing is a tough sport. Vijender Singh is a tough man, too.

From Patiala to Sonepat has been a tortuous journey for Vijender, a boxing icon, still a role model, the hardships of the past few months hardly withstanding.

Why not at NIS, Patiala but at SAI Centre, Sonepat with no sparring partners, coaches? How long this way? “Not long really. I am training hard. I have learnt to tackle the ups and downs.”

Heartbreaking

The period away from the ring for Vijender was heartbreaking. Returning to the arena is exacting, though the arms are not that electric and the feet not so athletic.

It will obviously take time for Vijender to regain lost strength. He is strong, but is he not rusty and sluggish? He prances around the ring, but the movements lack conviction; assurance is giving way to tentativeness.

The past is forgotten. “Whatever happens, happens for a reason. God wanted to teach me a few lessons.

“I believe in hard work and God. I can’t stop people from talking. I have my coach and six senior boxers. I have my heavyweight sparring partners. Next month, I will shift to Patiala,” says Vijender, with the cuts and bruises on his face showing the effects of trading punches.

Has he been able to comprehend the challenges of life? The demands of his fans, friends and family. Success brought him fame. It also brought him shame.

He has taken it in his stride as he sets about reconstructing his career, dented and bruised. “I have learnt one thing in the last two months. Don’t give your room key, car key and cell phone to anyone. I made these mistakes. When you are young you tend to make mistakes. I will be careful in future.”

The roar of a lion had turned into a mere whimper. But Vijender has observed himself, the shock and depression of being hounded by the law is a spec in his boxing horizon. The champ that he is, the athlete that he is, Vijender is in a mood to make the opponent duck and sway. Boxing feels good.

How does he strike a balance between handling his life and boxing? He is used to being driven into the corner, on the ropes, a frightening thought for any boxer. The comeback should not be a nightmare. The slide into near oblivion was one. His jabs have not lost the poison. At least he is convinced they have not as he wipes the sweat off his forehead. His form and fitness is not a concern.

After 75 kg, he will now compete in 81 kg. Will it be difficult? “81 kg will be tougher. It will involve change in weight, taller boxers, strong boxers. The punches will carry lot of force. I wanted to change after six years in 75 kg.”

Elite boxing will be without headgear? Will it make the sport attractive? “Boxing has always been attractive. I would prefer the amateur status. Changes are not needed really. If you make it professional then let us have a league. I can’t help if it is to be implemented. Only worry is, there will be more injuries. But one will have to be prepared for it. Boxing is what I live for.”

Boxing was his life. He knew nothing else. Boxing is his life still. The fight is on, his gloves are back in business but his feet need to respond to his mind; the body has begun to take the punishment. It aches, but then this pain is sweet. It reminds him the ring is beckoning.

Vijender Singh has begun training in earnest. “I am aiming for the world championship (in November). I am looking forward. I am keen to comeback.” He can hear the crowd cheering.

Whatever happens, happens for a reason. God wanted to teach me a few lessons. I believe in hard work and God

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