Vijender Singh's boxing future looks to be in jeopardy, according to experts who have monitored his career from close. In the wake of the allegations of his involvement with drugs, the pin-up boy of Indian boxing is away from the training ring for over four weeks now "and that is undesirable," feel boxing coaches.
Coaches feel Vijender's foray into Bollywood and his status as a celebrity may have made him go astray. "He is definitely a victim of bad company," said a senior boxing federation official on condition of anonymity. Also read NDTV's exclusive: Vijender's team on managing his brand amidst drug controversy.
The Indian Amateur Boxing Federation has kept a safe distance from the Vijender Singh drug controversy. The national federation is immersed in its own problems after the international body rejected the IABF constitution last year and ordered re-elections. In the Asian youth championships recently in the Philippines, Indian boxers participated under the "AIBA banner." The future remains uncertain.
"We have sent an amended constitution and it's for the international law commission to ratify," explained Rajesh Bhandari, the Indian Amateur Boxing Federation secretary. "And as far as Vijender is concerned, we can't say anything because the issue is being investigated. All that I can say is that he is a quality boxer ad we should not miss his services in international events," added Bhandari in an exclusive chat with NDTVSports.com.
But men closer to the ring feel the current circumstances do not augur well for the celebrated boxer. "The new scoring system, where a boxer is declared a winner on the basis of clinching (best-of-three) rounds, and playing without headgear will impact all boxers and that includes Vijender," said a senior coach.
Experts classify Vijender, a bronze medalist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, as a "strong and straight puncher who was good according to the old rules." As per the new rules, the "quality of punches" and the "consistency" throughout a bout will be key factors.
"Vijender is a clever boxer who will win points and defend them. He lost a close bout in the London Olympics but from now on, he has to train differently because it's just not being smart but being consistent," said a senior trainer. Plus, Vijender will have strong competition as India can send just one entry in the world championships in Kazakhstan in October.
After he lost in the London Games in the 75kg category, Vijender wanted to go to the next level - 81 kgs. But experts feel Vijender's section is not "automatic." "He will have strong competition as India have a very strong boxer in Sumit Sangwan and a veteran pugilist in Dinesh Kumar. So Vijender can't take his place for granted," explained a senior official. Trials are expected to be held in July-August.
The silver lining for Vijender, however,Â is his strong mental make-up, explained a coach. "He is very strong mentally but after all that's happening, he may not be able to take the pressure and prepare the way he would have loved to. Vijender disappointed in London and he may not want to rush himself to the world championship," he added.
Is there a timeline for the perfect training before an international meet? "Not quite," said the senior coach, adding: "a boxer can be ready in six weeks if he mentally strong enough and again he may not be ready in seven months. It's not only about strength and conditioning. It's in the mind."