New Delhi: Olympic bronze medallist Vijender Singh said the pulling out of India Fighters franchise from the World Series of Boxing (WSB) is a huge setback for the Indian boxers.
India Fighters, originally named Mumbai Fighters, pulled out of the 2012-13 season of the semi-professional league.
"The Indian franchise pulling out of the WSB will be a huge setback for the country and its boxers. I feel they should not have pulled out. These leagues are good for the sport and its growth. The publicity it gets would have helped the sport to reach many households," said Vijender, who won the bronze in the Beijing Games in 2008.
India Fighters in their debut season last year reached the quarter-finals.
Asked whether he would like to participate in the WSB, Vijender said: "I could not participate last time as I was preparing for the Olympic qualifiers. I would have loved to participate this year, but unfortunately the team has pulled out."
As the International Boxing Federation (AIBA) is set to come out with its own complete professional series (APB), Vijender feels India will take time to get the feel of pro boxing.
"Professional boxing is not popular in India so it will take time to get popular here. Frankly, there is very little scope for pro boxing in India as all the boxers are amateur," said Vijender, who turned 27 Monday.
"If only we were prepared for pro boxing from childhood, we would have been able to compete in these leagues. All of a sudden, you can't become a professional boxer."
On changing his weight category from 75kg to 81kg, he said it is not an out-of-the-box decision.
"I was just 39kg when I started boxing and I have been gradually increasing my weight. It is not really a big issue, it happens all the time in boxing. I am preparing for it, maintaining a good diet. The real key is to remain fit," said the pugilist from Bhiwani.
Vijender will not be participating in the boxing nationals to be held from Oct 30-Nov 4 in Hyderabad.
Asked about him lasting till the 2016 Rio Olympics, he said the next Games were four years away and he was not looking that far. For the present, he said, his focus was on the World Championships in Kazakhstan a year from now.