"If he thinks I'll be one of his earlier opponents whom he'll brush by then he's very mistaken. I am a two-time former Commonwealth super-middleweight champion and will put up a tactical master-class he's never seen before," Vijender Singh's opponent for his Dubai debut, Charles Adamu had said before the bout.
By the time the bout ended, which was reduced to eight rounds from 10 for reasons undisclosed, there was hardly any masterclass on show from Adamu. Or, if there was any, it was almost impossible to spot as Vijender built on his unbeaten pro boxing record with his 12th straight win.
A win but not via TKO
Nicknamed the Crusader, the Ghanaian had an acceptable record before the fight with 33 wins from 47 bouts and two Commonwealth super-middleweight championships under his belt. However, at 42 years of age, he was clearly past his prime and a win for Vijender was always on the cards.
The only disappointment, so to say, for the Indian fans was that the win did not come off a knockout but by way of a unanimous decision. Vijender had eight technical knockouts before Friday and his Dubai debut was expected to make it nine. Plenty of power-packed body blows and a few sharp rights having sapped the energy out of the veteran boxer, Vijender did have an opportunity to earn a knockout but he could not really capitalise on it.
If it was any compensation, Singh registered three knockdowns against Adamu, the first of them coming as early as the 2nd round. There were two more counting stoppages in the 6th and 7th round, but Amadu somehow scraped the barrel of his fast-depleting energy tank to go the distance.
The clock ticking for Vijender
An injury picked up while training and an unsuccessful electoral attempt in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, have further pushed the boxer's career back. At 34 years of age, he would know that he does not have a lot of time in his pocket.
Vijender is already past the ideal age for pro boxing, and a couple more years might see him walk into the sunset. Even in the fight against Adamu, his trademark powerful right jab was on display but the use of the left hand and the untidy footwork left for more to be desired.
With due respect to their ability, opponents like Francis Cheka, Andrzej Soldra, Matiouze Royer, Samet Hyuseinov and the latest Charles Adamu may make Vijender's professional CV look better but will add little more. It is time that Vijender steps up and takes on more competent rivals.
Obviously, attempting to catch on to glory also means higher risk of losing and hence putting up a blotch on his professional career, but so be it.
A bout with Amir remains a distant possibility
The pugilist had earlier made the headlines with a sensational claim that he was ready to fight Pakistani-British boxer Amir Khan. But, truth be told, the Indian is still a long way from that.
While Vijender is currently ranked 51 among super middleweight boxers in the world, Amir Khan is 11th in the WBO rankings, albeit in a different category. It's a different matter that Vijender had broken into the WBO top 10 rankings after beating former WBC European champion Kerry Hope in a 10-round contest to win the Asia Pacific super middleweight title. But, that was back in 2016 and the Haryana-born is not getting any younger.
Amir's name is taken along with some of the leading boxers in the professional circuit and Vijender will have to further build on his resume for the promoters to land him the coveted encounter.
That said, after bringing laurels to India at the amateur level, Vijender has to be credited for forging a new path in the professional circuit which has opened a new avenue for the country's boxers.
Even if Vijender does not want to risk the aura of invincibility that he has managed to create among a small but growing group of Indian boxing fans by having a shot at the Word title and intends to continue taking on lesser opponents, you can't take anything away from him.