Whenever one is posed with the question as to what propelled India as one of the best boxing nations in the world, only a couple of names come to the mind. Firstly, Vijender Singh and the other being MC Mary Kom.
That bronze medal from Singh in the 2008 Beijing Olympics is what many believe to be the cornerstone of a boxing revolution in the country. Since then, the Indian pugilists have performed consistently at almost all the major international events and still continue to bring laurels to the country.
So, what went into the making of now 35 year old and the unbeaten professional boxer Vijender Singh?
As for many elite athletes in the country, Singh had humble beginnings. Born to a Jat family in the Bhiwani district of Haryana, his father was a bus driver while mother was a homemaker.
Watching his father struggle to make ends meet, a young Vijender took up boxing after being inspired by his elder brother, Manoj, to ensure a better life for his family. His love for boxing soon turned into a serious passion under the watchful eyes of former national level boxer and coach Jagdish Singh at the Bhiwani Boxing Club.
First major victory
Though his rise to the top was rapid it was not unexpected, at least not for his coach Jagdish. Singh’s first major victory came in the year 1997 when he clinched the silver medal in the sub-junior national championships. The silver soon made way for the yellow metal in 2000 and he was crowned the Indian Youth Boxing Champion three years later in 2003.
There was no looking back since for the youngster as he made his senior India debut in the 2003 Afro-Asian Games despite being a junior and bagged the silver medal for India in Hyderabad. With some highly consistent performances, a 19 year old Vijender made it to the 2004 Athens Olympics where he went down to a much more experienced Mustafa Karagollu of Turkey in the welterweight category to crash out of the tournament without much success.
The disappointment of the debut Olympics was soon brushed aside with a silver medal winning effort at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. With the next Olympics fast approaching, Vijender decided to move up to the middleweight category and bagged a bronze medal during the 2006 Asian Games in Doha.
Winning India’s first-ever Olympic medal in Boxing
🎥 – Olympic Channel pic.twitter.com/FpNQiYuOiN
— The Bridge (@TheBridge_IN) August 22, 2019
Without an iota of doubt, 2008 remains the best year in Vijender’s almost two decade long career. From being on the brink of getting ruled out of the Olympics due to a back injury to winning India’s first ever Olympic medal in Boxing, he scripted his own fairytale.
The Olympic medal pushed Vijender to national prominence and he was honoured with the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award in the year 2009. He followed it up with a bronze medal in the World Amateur Boxing Championship held in Milan during the same year and was soon ranked as the World Number 1 boxer in the middleweight category by the International Boxing Association (AIBA).
The year 2010 saw Vijender being honoured with India’s fourth highest civilian award, Padma Shri whilst he also bagged an Asian Games Gold and a Commonwealth Games bronze in the same year.
Considered to be at the peak of his powers, Vijender failed to impress during the 2012 London Olympics and returned home empty handed. He made up for it with a silver at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Becoming a professional boxer
🥊 VIJENDER TO GET BACK IN THE RING!
Undefeated in his 10-bout pro career so far, @boxervijender will make his debut in the US professional circuit on July 13 against local favourite Mike Snider in Newark, New Jersey. pic.twitter.com/ASCK5W8yub
— The Bridge (@TheBridge_IN) June 27, 2019
Vijender decided to turn professional with the Rio Olympics just around the corner and has since been notching victories after victories in the professional circuit. The fact that he has not lost a single bout since turning pro is in itself a testament to his amazing prowess.
A vocal critic of the extra hype around cricket in the country, Vijender Singh was once the poster boy of Indian boxing and has carved his own niche in the world of Indian sports!