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Vijender Singh has home challenger too as Brijesh Kumar Meena issues war cry

Vijender Singh, the reigning WBO Asia Pacific super middleweight champion, will defend his title against Ernest Amuzu but he faces a challenge from Brijesh Kumar Meena who is the No 2 super middleweight boxer in India.

other sports Updated: Dec 21, 2017 08:55 IST
Leslie Xavier
Leslie Xavier
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Vijender Singh,Brijesh Kumar Meena,WBO Asia Pacific super middleweight
Vijender Singh is aiming for a perfect 10 in his WBO Asia Pacific super middleweight bout against Ernest Amuzu but he faces a potential challenge in Brijesh Kumar Meena.(Getty Images)

Vijender Singh, the reigning WBO Asia Pacific super middleweight champion,will defend his title against Ernest Amuzu in Jaipur on Saturday.

While the 2008 Beijing Olympics bronze medallist is probably into the last phase of cutting weight for the bout, another Indian pro in the category, ranked considerably higher than the Ghanaian Vijender faces, is wondering when and how he will get a shot he deserves.

Brijesh Kumar Meena may not have had an illustrious career in the amateur ranks like Vijender, though he has represented India at international meets. However, the 26-year-old from Rajasthan, who turned pro in 2015 like Vijender, had won the WBC Asian Boxing Council silver super middleweight belt and is, like the senior, nine bouts old in the mix.

Brijesh Kumar Meena, the India No. 2 behind Vijender Singh, with his WBC Asian Boxing Council silver super middleweight title belt. (HT Photo)

Just that Meena doesn’t have a perfect record -- he has two losses in his resume. Nor does he have a belt around his waist at the moment because of factors outside the ring. “At the start of my career I lost twice,” he says, reiterating that he has seven knockouts since then.

“The losses were by points in Thailand and Philippines, against local fighters. Honestly, I believe I had won those fights,” adds Meena on the sidelines of the launch of Hope & Glory Boxing promotion in New Delhi.

“I had to relinquish my belt because my previous promoter couldn’t find an opponent for the mandatory title defence. I will be fighting under Hope & Glory in their inaugural event, for the WBC Asia super middleweight title on February 10.”

THE CHALLENGE

Meena is not bothered about the past and sees the losses as a learning experience. He is the No 2 super middleweight boxer in India, and wants to change that status.

“I want to bring up my ranking points a bit. I am sure of winning the next bout in February. Then I will officially challenge Vijender,” says Meena, ranked 76 in the world by www.boxrec.com, the site which ranks pro boxers across sanctioning bodies. Vijender is 49. For perspective, Amuzu is ranked 258 in the world.

The Vijender versus Meena bout, if it happens, won’t just decide the top Indian in the division, but could also define Meena’s career. The young boxer knows the star value of Vijender and respects his credentials as a boxer.

AKHIL, THE MENTOR

Credentials and credibility are dear to Akhil Kumar, Vijender’s former teammate and friend. Hope & Glory, officially India’s second boxing promoters after Vijender’s representatives, IOS Boxing, has roped in Akhil as brand ambassador and mentor for its grassroots programme. It also has Jitender Kumar as a fighter.

Meena and Jitender, who is famous for his heroics at the Beijing Olympics where he lost in the quarterfinals, would be the biggest draw.

Akhil had a contract with IOS Boxing before cancelling it as the promoters were unable to get him the promised six bouts. He has thus burnt his fingers, fists rather, in pro boxing. He is very particular this time around.

(From left) Brijesh Kumar Meena, Hope & Glory Boxing MD Vikas Malik, Akhil Kumar and Jitender Kumar during the laungh on the boxing promotion in New Delhi on Wednesday. (HT Photo)

“Hope & Glory MD Vikas Malik has presented a plan to use the company not just to push a few stars, but to take pro boxing into areas in the country where real talent is hidden,” says Akhil. “They have already roped in 41 fighters, including women. In the coming year, these boxers would get a chance to fight in big events.”

Indians, even while taking baby steps into the flashy, yet murky world of prize fighting, seem to have mastered the tricks of the trade faster than ring craft -- from its shady economics, favouritism to match-making that defies logic, and everything in between.

Akhil is positive things would be different with Hope & Glory. “For the love of boxing and its future,” he says. Let’s “hope” so, pun intended!

First Published: Dec 20, 2017 22:36 IST