Olympic boxer Vijender Singh announced on Monday that he was turning a professional and signed what was called a ‘landmark, four-year deal’ with a British promoter, thus excluding himself from representing India at the Olympics in Rio in 2016.
No figures were mentioned at the press conference in London, but sources said that given the high profile of professional boxing and sums involved in legal bets, the 29-year-old Singh’s deal was most certainly ‘lucrative’.
Francis Warren of Queensbury Promotions, a company that promotes several boxers in the professional circuit, said Singh’s debut fight is likely to be scheduled in September-October. Until then, he will undergo rigorous training with coach Lee Beard in Manchester, where Singh will be based.
Beard said “Singh sailed through all the mental and physical tests that we put him through. He has great attitude, wants to learn. He is a thinking lad and packs a heavy punch. The lads in our gym were happy to have him around”.
Vijender Singh said he would not resign as an officer with the Haryana police, but will take leave from headquarters to box in a minimum of six times in his first year. His fights will be telecast live on BoxNation in the UK and most likely on Star for the Indian audience.
Warren said "After spending the past week with him in Manchester, there is no doubt in my mind that he has what it takes to be a very successful professional boxer, not only because of his undoubted natural talent but also due to his drive and focus”.
He added: “It is natural that some people will be gutted over his decision to turn professional, but they should recognise what he has done for India and how he has made it proud. It is inevitable that some people will be disappointed”.
Neerav Tomar, who manages Singh, said there were mixed reactions in India over his decision to turn professional, but called at an ‘historic moment’ for boxing in India, where the sport is likely to be promoted on the same lines as cricket and football.