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My toughest fight till date, says Vijender Singh

NEW DELHI,RUTVICK MEHTA: Vijender Singh’s fifth professional fight against Matiouze Royer on Saturday resembled a chess battle more than a boxing one.

Despite the wealth of experience, the Frenchman walked into the ring with the strategy to guard immaculately, to not give the Indian an inch. It took Vijender by some surprise. After all, one would expect a boxer with 44 pro fights and 250 rounds under his belt to come out looking to dominate a lesser-experienced four-bout-old opponent.

But that was Royer’s gameplan, and Vijender had to quickly adjust. He couldn’t knock down his opponent with the same ease which he did in his previous four fights. After a game of cat and mouse in the first round, Vijender laid down his strategy in the second: to wear Royer down in the counter-attack. A brilliantly timed, perfectly placed uppercut to the left eye of the Frenchman was when Vijender knew that he was conquering this chess battle.

“Such fights are essentially a mental battle,” Vijender told dna after arriving in Manchester on Sunday. “It depends on how hard you hit. Some people are not big, hard punchers. Some people punch really hard on the counter. So it depends on your opponent.

“When I hit Royer that uppercut, which cut his left eye, I understood that he will only look to survive now. But the tough boxer that he is, he still took it to the fifth round and made sure I had to fight long. But I was expecting that,” he added.

A little under two minutes into the fifth round, the referee stopped the fight due to the excess damage on Royer’s left eye. It robbed Vijender of a fifth straight knockout, instead having to settle for a technical one. Would he have dealt a final blow to knock Royer down had the fight not been stopped?

“I have no idea,” Vijender said with a chuckle. “He was surviving, but it’s tough to predict.”

By his own admission, this was Vijender’s toughest victory amongst all his five professional fights.

“Yes, this was my toughest fight till date,” he said. “He’s a good boxer, a tactical boxer. But I discuss all the scenarios with my coaches. They tell me how to react in particular situations, depending on what the opponent throws at you. So every time I go sit in my corner during the fight, the coaches are constantly in my ear. They keep telling me my next move. That really helped.”

This was the Indian’s first six-round bout in his pro career – all this previous fights have been four rounds – and it was a different challenge for Vijender.

“A six-round fight was a good experience for me,” he said. “Look, this is just the beginning. There will be more fights and more rounds that I will have to battle. And possibly, every fight from now on will get longer than the previous ones. So, it’s a new start for me.”

Talking of starts, Vijender has had a dream one to his professional career, winning five out of five. But he has a mixed feeling of satisfaction and a burning desire to achieve more.

“I’m really satisfied with my performance,” he said. “It’s 5-0, and I hope it’s 50-0 one day. Dil maange more (heart wants more).”

And, thus, there is no luxury of rest for Vijender. His next fight is on May 13, before he arrives in India for his blockbuster WBO Asia Title fight a couple of months later.

“I’m ready to face tougher challenges. I’ll hit the gym on Monday, back to training. I arrived in Manchester today (Sunday) itself, and after the rest day, it’s back to the grind tomorrow (Monday). No time to celebrate or rest. I have to keep boxing,” Vijender said.

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