Vijender Singh faces an African next - How farcical are his pro boxing bouts
An unbeaten record is something a professional boxer cherishes with his dear life and Vijender Singh is no different. However, when maintaining that run involves taking on below par or over-the-hill opponents, it not just jeopardises the reputation of the boxer, but puts the sport into disrepute too.
It’s about time Vijender Singh, the WBO Asia-Pacific Super Middleweight champion, realised that, even as the wheels of another farce-of-a-bout is set into motion. The 32-year-old will take on Ernest Amuzu of Ghana in the tenth bout of his pro career in Jaipur on Saturday, and, in all likelihood, Vijender Singh’s unbeaten record would remain intact.
Amuzu, as advertised by Vijender’s promoters in the pre-bout drama, has a record of 23 wins and two losses, with 21 knockouts under his belt – an impressive record on paper, no doubt. But then, pro boxing numbers – with all its shady match-making -- can be deceptive and Amuzu’s record, impressive as it is, turns out to be hollow.
The 34-year-old boxer is not even No 1 in Ghana. In fact, he is ranked No 7 in the Super Middleweight division in Ghana according to www.boxrec.com, one of the recognised websites that ranks pro boxing.
There is more to the farce, or should we term it a joke?
It seems Amuzu, who has been touted as the African champion by organisers of the fight christened “Rajasthan Rumble”, is not a continental champ either. The WBO Africa title holder is Ghanaian world No 4 Habib Ahmed.
Neerav Tomar of IOS Boxing, the promoters of Vijender Singh, clarified to HT that naming of Amuzu as “African champion” was just for reference for the fight.
“He doesn’t hold an official WBO title,” said Tomar. “But he has proven credentials as a fighter.”
However, at Boxrec (which ranks boxers across all pro-boxing organisations -- WBO, WBC, IBF, WBA, etc.), Vijender is ranked 49 in the world and Amuzu a lowly 258.
Yes, the boxer from Ghana is not even in the top 100.
Vijender is a WBO champ and the organisation maintains its own rankings. The Indian was ranked No 7 in the world by WBO in November, while Amuzu’s name didn’t feature in the top 15! No surprises there.
But what’s beyond comprehension is why Vijender , and his promoters, are having trouble attracting worthy opponents – fighters who could test his mettle; fighters, if the Indian manages to beat, would enhance his reputation; and if he loses, won’t tarnish his credentials.
By logic, Vijender Singh, with more than two years in the pro circuit, should be looking to fight someone in the top 10, if not a fighter graded above him.
History of mismatches
A glance at Vijender’s pro-boxing career would expose the quality of the fighters he has beaten to build a 9-0 record. Of course, it is understandable that at the start of a pro-boxing career one has to put in some wins – good or bad – to establish a reputation, before staking the attention of the top dogs.
Vijender’s initial bouts went by that script. From his debut against Sonny Whiting of the UK, to his fourth opponent, Alexander Horvath of Hungary, one could understand the choice of opponents, even though they were mismatches of the highest order.
But judging by the way things have gone after that, it seems Vijender is either unable to get good opponents, or has got used to the comfort of taking on fighters against whom he has a distinct advantage.
Tomar of IOS Boxing explained the situation.
“There is a mandatory title defence within six months of winning it, he said. “So Vijender had to defend his WBO Asia Pacific belt. And our match-makers found this (bout vs Amuzu) as a good fight to end the year with. We are expecting a good fight as Amuzu is an experienced fighter. And WBO has approved the bout, which means that they are fine with the quality of the match-up.
“We will definitely have a big fight next March and from now on, Vijender will be trying to get fights with higher-ranked opponents. We have to take one step at a time. Also in boxing, besides boxers, one has to match the commercials with potential fighters. That’s a tough job too, especially with the bigger fighters,” added Tomar.
India’s role model
Vijender has solid technique no doubt, and his Olympic bronze medal in Beijing 2008 was no fluke. But with the opponents he is currently taking on, he is neither doing justice to his abilities as a boxer, nor to the reputation of professional boxing. In fact, one is forced to question his heart as a fighter now, if not his technical credentials.
Vijender is a pioneer of professional boxing in India and many young pugilists, and fans, look up to him for inspiration. And he is hardly doing justice to that responsibility as a champion, either.
As if to add more insult, Vijender and Amuzu are playing an annoying pre-bout charade. The boxer from Ghana has threatened to leave Vijender ‘beaten and broken’ in Jaipur, while Vijender and his trainer, Lee Beard, expect a knockout victory, no less.
But the bout reeks of mismatch. One can’t help but fear that the only thing that probably would get knocked out in Jaipur come Saturday would be Vijender’s and boxing’s reputation.