Kerry Hope is a soft-spoken man. One has to listen carefully to not miss a word or two when he speaks. His coach, Gareth Williams, describes him as “anybody” else, and he really is. He has a family, two kids, and moved to Australia to provide a better future for them. He doesn’t even seem to have that ‘slightly mad’ trait people say all boxers have.
On July 16, he will hope to knockout Vijender Singh for the WBO Asia-Pacific super middleweight title.
The phrase “cut the tension with a knife” is thrown around quite loosely, and is used to describe anything from former partners being in the same room to an El Clasico between Real Madrid and Barcelona, but as Vijender walks into the room, it makes perfect sense.
They don’t acknowledge each other, nor do they make eye contact.
Hope doesn’t flinch, and continues to talk about how he has been training for “12 weeks, three times a day” and how “Indian food is the best”.
But their bout seems to have already begun.
“The expectations are placed on him. He is a superstar here. For me...no pressure. Let him deal with that, I have come to fight,” the Welsh-born southpaw says when the conversation switches to whether Vijender will have an advantage at home.
After all, it is the Indian’s first bout on home soil since turning professional, and after six knockouts out of six, he is looking to make it seven.
“No, no. I don’t feel any pressure, it is the opposite. When your fans cheer, it gives you energy,” is Vijender’s response when told what his opponent thinks of the venue.
“Mera mulk hai (it is my country).”
“I have been waiting for a long time to fight in India, it is finally happening,” he adds.
Vijender is not giving anything away, apart from how he still “misses home food and desi ghee” sometimes due to being away from home. “Talab lagti hai (there is an urge sometimes)”.
This will be the first time the Indian will fight a southpaw, and he has been sparring with them for a few months now for “long training sessions”, but the ultimate goal, Vijender says, is to continue to reach the next goal after turning pro, to keep moving forward.
“I just think about the fight, I don’t talk. I want to win, that is all I think about (before a fight).”
“The next goal is just to keep taking the next step.”
Meanwhile, Hope is calm, so calm that he and is coach are more interested in knowing how his family can stream the match back home.
“Kill ‘em,” Hope says when asked what his coach says to him before a bout.
“I don’t say that, he’s joking,” comes the trainer’s response.
Between all the laughter, the tension remains.
“He is here to win.”