Vijender Singh has fought and won every bout since his debut as a professional boxer. It has been almost 2 years since he has played his first pro boxing match and from then his undefeated record has gone up to eight wins – seven as knockouts. He is the current holder of the WBO Asia Pacific Super Middleweight title, and in his next fight, there’s a chance to also win the WBO Oriental Super Middleweight belt, when he takes on Zulipikaer Maimaitiali of China.
“He’s still five or six fights away from a world title (match),” says Neerav Tomar, head of IOS Boxing Promotions that handles the pugilist. “So there will be more interesting fights for Vijender on the way.”
The veteran Indian boxer is still a beginner in the professional circuit. Because of this he hasn’t liberty of competing against the bigger names in the sport. Instead he’s had to fight against relatively low profile athletes – whom he’d pummel through with relative ease.
“There’s nobody in the division who Vijender can’t beat, because he’s at that high level now,” says Lee Beard, who has coached the Indian since he turned professional in 2015. “But there’s no point rushing into that position (world title bout) and losing it because of lack of experience. You can’t just go into professional boxing and start jumping into opponents of a certain level. Everybody has a progression way of going forward.”
Maimaitiali is an undefeated boxer. He has managed to win eight and draw one in his 9 matches. The journey in the professional stream has been one that has needed Vijender to be far more patient compared to what was needed of him when he was an amateur boxer. “I didn’t expect that it will be that long (to get to the top),” he says.
The Indian Pro boxer wants to be patient and take thongs slow. “I’ve got no deadline for when I want to be fighting for the world title. I don’t see myself being a world champion in the next two years. I’m taking it one by one. I’ll play this Chinese guy, then maybe my ranking will go up and I’ll try for another title,” he says. “I’m not looking for a world title yet. I don’t know when it will happen though.”
Which is what makes Vijender’s cautious approach all the more important. Especially since he’s 31 and competing in a sport that is heavily populated with younger talent. So much so that while a loss for Maimaitiali will see him lose his title, the 23-year-old is not too concerned about the result.“If you get injured before the bout, the fight can be pushed to another month so you can recover. The power to decide is with the boxer because it’s about putting up a good show,” he says. “And winning,” he adds as an afterthought.
“If I lose the fight, I still have the chance to learn the lesson and try again. But Vijender, he’s almost 10 years older than me, he will not have the chance to recover,” says Maimaitiali. There is still over a month before Vijender takes on his Maimaitiali for a chance of winning a second title. When asked how the journey has been, Vijender said: “Haan yaar, so far theek hai. Everything is alright. Bas chalta rahe aise he.”