Indian professional boxer Vijender Singh beat Kerry Hope of Australia to win the WBO Asia-Pacific Super Middleweight title in New Delhi on Saturday evening.
Faced with the most experienced and highly rated opponent of his fledgling professional boxing career, Vijender carved out a 98-92, 98-92, 100-90 verdict from the three judges to clinch his first pro-boxing title.
This is Vijender’s seventh consecutive victory and he remains unbeaten in the professional arena. Exactly a year after he turned pro, the Indian boxer has broken into the top-15 in the WBO rankings with this win.
In his first 10-round fight, Vijender, the 2008 Olympic bronze medallist, came across a formidable Kerry who refused to budge and kept landing punches till the last bell.
The second round clearly belonged to Vijender, who made good use of his long reach to evade Hope’s punches while going for power-packed body shots.
Australian southpaw Hope did better in the third round, and managed to penetrate Vijender’s defence a couple of times with his fast right jabs. The Australian gradually started gaining the upper hand as the bout wore on, outfoxing Vijender with his superior footwork and movement.
He dominated the fourth and fifth rounds and although Vijender managed to land a few solid blows of his own, the local favourite was clearly having the worse of it.
The Indian managed to put Hope in trouble towards the end of the sixth round with a couple of bodyshots and a jab to the face.
The 2008 Olympic bronze medallist seemed to tire a bit as the fight wore on. Hope continued to move around with speed and vigour, exhibiting impressive technique and footwork while Vijender was comparatively less mobile in the later rounds, relying more on his power to counter his opponent.
But despite taking some hits to his body, he managed to hold his own till the end.
“Thank you India! I didn’t expect it to go to 10 rounds,” Vijender said after the bout. “It is all to my country, not about me! We have been working hard for this. Finally we did it and we will work to improve my ranking now.”
Vijender had put in intense preparation for the bout and all that training seemed to pay off on Saturday. He used a smart combination of punches and right hooks to keep the Aussie at bay.
The event was attended by the who’s who of sports, entertainment and politics, including Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, boxer MC Mary Kom, who choked a bit while acknowledging a loud applause from the crowd, star wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt, cricketers Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina, and actor Randeep Hooda.
(With inputs from agencies)