No hope for Kerry, says Vijender

NEW DELHI:On a 6-0 unbeaten run since his debut on the professional circuit, Vijender Singh would be up against his toughest rival yet when he takes on Australian Kerry Hope for the WBO Asia Pacific super middleweight title on July 16. This would also be his first fight at home since turning pro.

Vijender Singh.

Welsh-born Hope, who is a former European middleweight champion and the reigning WBC Asian Boxing Council middleweight champion, was on Monday named as Vijender’s opponent for the title fight at the Thyagraj Stadium.

But while the 30-year old Vijender has enjoyed knock-out victories in each of his fights so far, Hope has an impressive 23-7 record in pro bouts with 183 rounds in terms of experience at the top level.

Olympic dreams
That, however, did not stop the questions on Vijender’s Olympic chances after participation was opened up to professional boxers earlier this month.

The 30-year old remained non-committal. “Olympics is the pinnacle of achievement for any sportsperson and now that the wall between pro and amateur has been broken, why not,” he said when asked about another shot at the Games at Rio.

The fight card for the event would include seven fights — two each of four, six and eight rounds besides the title clash which would be a 10-round bout.

Phenomenal progress
Promoter Francis Warren admitted the Indian Olympian had made phenomenal progress as a professional. “We had thought of him being ready for some kind of title bout around September this year but we are a few months early.” He also warned against taking it easy.

“We represented Hope before he moved to Australia. He is an exceptional fighter, a European champion and it would be much tougher than any fight before.

“Also at stake is a place in the top-15 of WBO rankings that would pave the way for a world title bout,” he said.

Sticking to the script
Hope stuck to the script, writing off Vijender as ‘amateur stuff’.

“He is a superstar in India but all that has been said about him, Olympics, achievements, medals whatever, is all amateur stuff. I have seen it all, that stuff doesn’t faze me at all.

“He has been pro for a year, I have been pro for 12 years. I know the crowd will be behind him but I like being the underdog,” the 34-year-old Hope said.

Vijender simply laughed it off. “All my bouts so far, I won easily. But those who say it’s been easy, I invite them to spend some time in the gym with me.

“It is not easy, I make it look easy. Against Hope also, I am looking at swatting him aside in a couple of rounds and going home,” he said.