After becoming a household name in the world of boxing in India, recently turned pro Indian boxer, Vijender Singh hopes to emulate legendary Manny Pacquiao. Vijender, who rose to fame post the Beijing Olympics, knows he will have his task cut out in the tough environment.
And he got a confidence boost, when he met his childhood hero Naseem Hamed.
Vijender, recently shifted base to Manchester for his four-round middleweight professional debut this Saturday against Sonny Whiting at the Manchester Arena.
The 29-year-old boxer said that Naz was the guy who inspired him to take up boxing.
"Naseem Hamed was massive, massive, influence on my career, he was my idol and the reason I got into boxing," said Vijender who was at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday to watch blockbuster Arsenal vs Manchester United match alongside promoter Frank Warren and Naz. (Vijender Promises a Fitting Reply to Whiting's Threats)
Naz, a former three-time world champion and global sensation in the 1990s, believes that Vijender can become just as big as Filipino.
"He was awesome. Everything about him, the ring entrances, the knockout power, the entertainment, he was a superstar, everybody around the world watched him fight," said Vijender.
"So it was a real honour to meet him at the Emirates Stadium face-to-face and have a good chat with him. Of course, he has been on top of the boxing world and the advice he gave was very sound and I took it all in as I'm now starting out on my professional career," he added.
Viejnder, though entering into the world professional boxing as a newbie, is already confident that he can become as popular as Pacquiao.
"Manny (Pacquiao) is a major Asian star and he said there is no reason why I cannot become just as big as him, but first and foremost I'm a boxer and it is what I do in the ring that counts, everything else is secondary.
"Professional boxing is just starting now in India and I believe that in the next few years you will start seeing some very good professional boxers coming through on the world scene.
"I'm very excited for Saturday night, I've trained so hard for this and I can't wait to get in the ring," said Vijender.