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New Delhi: Vijender Singh will fight Australia’s Kerry Hope for the World Boxing Organization (WBO) Asia Pacific Super Middleweight title in New Delhi on 16 July. The announcement was made at a press conference in New Delhi on Monday.
Singh, who turned pro last year after a long and sparkling amateur career, has fought six bouts so far, winning each by knock out.
“We thought we’ll do a title fight in September, but his development has been phenomenal, so we thought this is the right time,” says Francis Warren—whose company Queensberry Promotions, signed Singh last year for an undisclosed amount believed to be a multi-million dollar, five-year deal. “And I’m not just talking of the six fights he’s won so far, but his work in the gym.”
Singh, who remains India’s only Olympic medallist in boxing for his bronze at the 2008 Beijing Games, surprised many by turning pro at 29 (he’s 30 now)—a late age for a boxer to make the switch.
“Pro boxing is very different from amateur,” Singh says, “and I had to learn a lot very quickly, change many things. I had to change my stance. In amateur, you also move a lot more, jump around the ring because you are only fighting three rounds. In pro, you have to fight six, eight,10, 12 rounds, so you will never last if you jumped around. But technically, doing so many years of amateur has helped me a lot.”
His opponent Kerry Hope was not impressed.
“Everything you say about Vijender—Olympics, great amateur, KOs as a pro—I’ve seen it all before, I’m unfazed. I will take his ass,” he says. “I’ve been a professional for 12 years. I’m the one with the belts. I’m the one to beat. But it’s not gonna happen. Both the belts are mine.”
Hope is 34, and a southpaw with an awkward, unconventional style of fighting. Hope has fought 30 bouts so far, winning 23 (with two KOs) and is the holder of the European Boxing Union middleweight belt which he won in 2013, before relocating from his native Wales to Australia, where he continues to live. In 2015, he won the World Boxing Council (WBC) Asian Council middleweight title.
Hope is 5ft 10, which gives Singh, at 6ft, a slight reach advantage.
“I will keep to my style,” Singh says. “Stay behind my jab, keep him at range, don’t let him come in.”
“Vijender is stronger and fitter than ever before, and he learns all the time,” Singh’s coach Lee Beard says. “He is very committed. Even when he comes back from a break, you can see that he’s kept working, kept perfecting everything he is being taught. And he can punch really, really hard.
Singh will now fly back to Manchester, where he now trains under Beard, and will go through four weeks of intense fight-specific training for his homecoming as a pro.