Vijender Singh is one of the few sportspersons to have made the country proud at the Olympics and World Championships. But his recent decision to turn professional hasn’t gone down well with the authorities. The Punjab and Haryana High Court has taken suo moto action over the boxer signing a contract with a UK-based company without informing his department (Haryana Police) and the state government.
Excerpts from an interview with the Olympic bronze medal-winning boxer:
You have signed a contract with Queensberry Promotions without informing your department and state government, and this has put you in the midst of controversy.
I don’t know how many times I have to repeat myself that I have not signed a contract with Queensberry Promotions. So, the question of not informing my department or government before signing the agreement doesn’t arise. I have discussed my professional boxing career with them and given verbal consent to their idea. For me, there is no controversy and it happened because facts were twisted.
The representative of Queensberry Promotions went on record to say that you have signed a deal with them?
The fact is, I have not signed the deal, and only I can confirm when I sign it. As far as Queensberry Promotions’ statement is concerned, it depends in which context one asked the question. On July 14 in Delhi, we (Francis of Queensberry Promotions and I) had a joint press conference and I clarified that I would sign the agreement after getting permission from my department and government. Signing the agreement is not just a one-minute job as there are a lot of points which have to be worked on.
What led you to turn professional?
I have competed in three Olympics, including winning bronze at the 2008 Beijing Games. There are very few boxers who have been able to stretch their Olympic career to three Games. To prolong my career, I am venturing into professional boxing. If I do well, it will be to the country’s credit. Rocky Marciano and Muhammad Ali, who are idolised by millions, made their name in the professional arena.
Is it for money?
If an engineer or doctor has the right to have a decent lifestyle through his profession, why can’t a sportsperson do so through sport? Winning an Olympic medal guarantees you everything — name, fame and money. The money an Olympic medallist gets here is incomparable to anything, not even to professional boxing. So money is not a criterion.
There are allegations that you placed money over national pride.
After making the country proud at the international arena I have to prove that I am an Indian and what the country’s pride means to me. For each medal I won, it was a lot of hard work and I had to take a number of blows. I have donned the national jersey for 15 years, including 12 in the senior category. As a pro, I will be playing for India and if I’m able to win the world title, it will be in India’s name.
Given the way things have shaped up after your announcement, especially in Haryana, what do you have to say?
It seems I have committed a crime by turning professional. I have been portrayed as if I am a traitor and have dented the country’s image. Since the day I stepped into the boxing arena as a 12-year-old, I was aware of the importance of donning the national jersey and only I know the hardships I had to face. Please let me compete, I will make the country proud.