He won a bronze at the Beijing Olympics but missed out on the national honours. Boxer Vijender Singh gets into the punch ’em mode with Roshmila Bhattacharya...
The question uppermost on every mind is undoubtedly the Padma Shri. How big a disappointment was it to lose out on the national honour after bringing home an Olympic bronze medal?
It is disappointing given that with this performance in the Olympics, the Padma Shri would have been well deserved. The efforts of the Indian boxers have infused fresh interest in the sport amongst the country’s youth and due recognition would certainly boost the morale of not just the sportspersons but their followers as well.
Doesn’t such discrimination once again reiterate the fact that for the powers that matter, cricket is still the only sport that counts in the country?
Well, cricket does have its own place.. and a mass viewership. I’m not disputing that.
But other sports and the Olympics are equally important, right?
Hopefully, if we manage to fulfill the criteria next year, we could get lucky.
At this point, don’t you wish you were in Harbhajan Singh’s shoes since despite the Slapgate controversy during the last IPL, the spin bowler was honoured with a Padma Shri?
No, there’s no such wish. Even though I didn’t make it to the honours list this year, I’m very satisfied with my performance in the Beijing Olympics.
Is the Indian Amateur Boxing Federation planning to register a formal protest on your behalf?
I am yet to discuss the matter in detail with the Federation. I did have a chat with another Olympic bronze medalist who was also ignored, wrestler Sushil Kumar. We exchanged our views on the subject. He is equally disheartened.
Since your big win in the OlympIcs, is the government and corporates coming forward with much-needed funds for the sport? Will the on-going recession have an adverse impact?
As I mentioned earlier, there has been a definite surge of interest in boxing among youngsters of late.
Many corporates are also showing a definite interest in the sport. That makes us optimistic and we are looking forward to better facilities. But it will take some time. Definitely the recession has had an impact.
Have you been roped in as brand ambassador for the sport yet?
Right now I am concentrating on improving my game. But definitely, in the future, I will be working on a roadmap to promote boxing in India.
It is obvious that you’ve had a lot of exposure but what about actual financial gains? Has life changed dramatically since the Olympic win?
I have gained in every way. And for that I’d like to thank IOS Sports, my official management company which has provided me with all-round exposure and is working hard to build my brand value.
Buzz is that you've signed up for the third season of Jhalak Dikhlaa Jaa. Won’t the rigorous rehearsals for this dance reality show take you away from boxing? Also, how confident are you of dancing in front of the camera?
I have not signed up for any dance show. To be honest, I’m not very fond of dancing. Boxing is my only passion.
But there was talk earlier too that you had been approached for Nach Baliye 4 and had only turned down this dance reality show for want of a baliye?
Really? That’s news to me!
Okay, how would you feel about judging a dance reality show?
You haven’t heard of any such offer, have you?
Okay, how about writing your autobiography? Now, that would be a bestseller.
No such plans, as of now.
When will we see you walk the ramp again? Would you call yourself a clotheshorse?
I don’t mind walking the ramp as long as it doesn’t cut into my tight training schedule. As for being a clotheshorse, well, I do have an extensive personal wardrobe. I love clothes and shoes.
Will we see you in films next?
There have been offers, but I haven’t committed to any project yet.
Which is your favourite movie?
I like Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky series. The movie shows the struggles a boxer goes through and how he overcomes all odds to come up tops.
After the Olympics, one expected to see you doing a lot of endorsements like Abhinav Bindra who brought home India’s first individual gold in shooting. Don’t commercials appeal?
They do and they are coming but slowly due to the economic meltdown.
You’ve become a familiar face on the Page 3 circuit. Do you feel at ease with the socialite crowd ? Has Vijender changed much as a person since the Olympics?
Ha, ha.. nothing has changed. But yes, you could say that after the Olympics I have been going places.
You have often been spotted pub hopping with cricketers Zaheer Khan and Yuvraj Singh. Would they rank amongst your close friends?
At times we have been at the same place but not exactly together. I wouldn’t call them close friends.
Can India beat Sri Lanka in the on-going ODI series?
I don’t watch much cricket but I’m confident India will beat the Lankans.
You’ve been felicitated at a number of functions.. which honour was the most meaningful?
The Arjuna Award.
You must be flooded with proposals? What kind of a woman stands a chance of becoming Mrs Vijender Singh?
Honestly, I haven't given it a thought.
But will you eventually settle for a girl of your parents’ choice or will it be a love match?
It’s too early to say.. I’m only 23. My focus right now is the World Championship this year followed by the Commonwealth Games in 2010.
God forbid, if you fail to win a medal in the next big match will you be able to handle the blow.. will your fans
I’m positive about my performance. But we must all remember that winning and losing is part and parcel of the game.