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By TT Bureau
  • Published 7.10.09

You have just become world number one in the 75kg category. How does it feel?

First class hai ji! Bahut achha lag raha hai. It’s a great feeling to realise that all the hard work that I have put in over these 10-12 years has been rewarded. Lekin main satisfied nahin hoon. A lot more needs to be done, I need to win many more tournaments and titles. Abhi toh sirf shuruaat hai.

What is more significant — the bronze medal at the Olympics or the number one ranking?

Both are very important for me because they show that I am working in the right direction. The Olympic medal of course has made me a household name. It has given me an opportunity to make my country proud of me and given recognition to boxing as a sport in this country. World ranking toh aate jaate rahenge, lekin medal toh koi mujhse chheen nahin payega (laughs)!

As a youngster, why did you decide to take up boxing?

I first decided to take up boxing when I was about 13-14 years old. That was about 10 years ago. I come from a small town called Bhiwani in Haryana and we didn’t have any facilities for training. Still I was adamant and I used to accompany my elder brother Manoj, a keen boxer himself, for training. From an interest, boxing quickly grew into a passion and subsequently a career choice. National-level boxer and coach Jagdish Singh saw me training at the Bhiwani Sports Authority of India and told me that I had it in me to become a top boxer one day.

How supportive were your friends and family?

My parents have always been very supportive and encouraging. I come from a humble background and my parents have struggled and sacrificed to bring us up. When they realised that I had a talent and a passion for boxing, they never pressured me to continue my studies. They merely said, “Beta, aap theek se training karo. Hum aapke saath hain.” Today, I am happy that my parents’ faith in me has paid off. They are very proud of me.

Who have been your boxing idols?

Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson have been my idols. Aur main Rocky Balboa ka sabse bada fan hoon!

What have been the positives and negatives of taking up boxing as a sport?

I consider myself very lucky that so far all the good things in my life have been because of boxing. Today, people recognise me on the streets and come up to me to say that they are proud of me. Isse achhi baat kya ho sakti hai? As far as negatives go, I wish boxing was given a lot more recognition and importance in this country by the authorities. Bahut neglected sport hai.

What would you change about the way boxing is played and promoted in India?

Thanks to the media, people have started taking boxing seriously over the past two years. Everyone knows my name now because my achievements have been highlighted. Lekin boxing ka toh kuch promotion hi nahin hota India mein. We don’t have boxing academies, we don’t even have proper boxing rings. I have lost count of the times I have approached the government and the sporting authorities for support, but nothing has happened.

In this country, everyone is hung up on cricket. Forget about boxing, India is doing so well in other sports too. Saina (Nehwal) is a great badminton player, the Indian tennis team has just won a Davis Cup tie, lekin hamare liye support kahan hai?

Mujhe lagta hai ki cricket bahut overrated game hai. Boxing aur football mein kitni energy kharch hoti hai. In cricket you just have to stand at the crease and hit as hard as you can. Usmein koi energy kharch nahin hoti. Abhi toh T20 mein players run bhi nahin lete!

What would your advice be for youngsters in India wanting to take up boxing as a career?

The going may often be tough, but believe in yourself. Be dedicated and focussed and never compromise on your training. Cricket mein bahut paisa hai, but boxing is a man’s game! (Laughs)

Moving away from boxing, you are all set to be part of a reality show called The Contender

It is a reality show centred around boxing. I play a mentor on the show. I agreed to be part of The Contender because I feel that the show will spread awareness about boxing and the hard work that we boxers put in every day. I haven’t started shooting for the show but I am looking forward to the experience.

Whether it is Indian Idol, Nach Baliye, Dus Ka Dum or Tere Mere Beach Mein, you are a firm favourite with TV shows…

Mujhe mazaa aata hai (laughs)! All the people I have met from Bollywood and the television world have been very nice to me. Some have even become friends. But I am closest to Akshay Kumar. Woh mere bahut kareebi dost hain aur mujhe hamesha encourage karte rehte hain.

There have been reports that you have signed your first film…

Woh sab bakwaas hai. I haven’t signed any film. Acting is a full-time occupation and requires a lot of time and dedication. Boxing is my priority right now and I just want to concentrate on my game.

What is the road ahead for Vijender Singh?

Now I am looking forward to the Commonwealth Games in 2010. Then there are a lot of tournaments that I am working very hard for. And of course the big one is the London Olympics in 2012 where I will definitely look to better my bronze medal performance…. And I dream of a day when I will be inside a ring at Madison Square Garden with Don King as my mentor!

These are a few of my favourite things…

Film: Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, the Matrix films and of course the Rocky series.

Actor: Akshay Kumar and Dharmendra.

Actress: Sab hi toh achhey hain! (Laughs). But I like Kareena Kapoor and Bipasha Basu a lot.

Dish: Ma ke haath ka khana. When I am on tour, I crave for home-cooked food.

I relax by: Watching films, going out with my friends.

If not a boxer, I would have: Definitely joined the army.