It is the the biggest fight of his emergent professional career, but Indian boxing star Vijender Singh on Monday said the WBO Asia title contest against Kerry Hope is no huge deal for him and he is taking it as just another stepping stone in the circuit.
The 30-year-old dasher, who is unbeaten in the professional arena, has won all his bouts via konckouts. Eyeing a seventh knockout in what is meant to be a 10-round contest, Vijender said his approach to the contest is no different from the one he had for his previous bouts.
"I won all my six bouts, the seventh is coming up one year into the circuit. So I am a pro now, I am feeling like a pro now," Vijender told PTI ahead of the Saturday night showdown, which will feature seven undercard bouts apart from the main event.
"Saturday's fight is not a be all or end all fight for me. It's being built up like a big, big fight but for me it's like any other fight. Get inside the ring, win it, come back and focus on the next. I have a lot to do, this fight is like one more step in my career. I don't think it's a big deal for me. For me ok, it's a job, get done with it," he said.
Vijender is up against Hope, who brings with him an experience bank of 30 bouts, of which he has won 23, two of them knockouts. The Welsh-born Hope, who emigrated to Australia, was also a WBC middleweight champion and has moved a division to super middleweight to take on Vijender.
Asked about his thoughts on Hope, India's first Olympic and World Championships medallist said he prefers to focus on himself.
"We are just doing our training. I am not bothered about what he might be doing. I am just focussed on myself," the strapping six-footer said.
"I don't think anybody needs to talk big, because ultimately the punch does the talking. If an opponent says something nasty and even if I talk back with something more nasty, that hardly makes a difference to the result inside the ring. So I prefer to talk in the ring because only there everyone would know who is best or better," he explained. The title bout, a win in which would give him a crack at the top-15 of WBO rankings, comes exactly a year after he turned pro and Vijender said the timing couldn't be more perfect.
"This bout has come at the right time although it's been just one year since I turned pro because I am not a 20-year-old greenhorn. I am an experienced guy and I train a lot," he said.
On whether professional boxing is the way forward for Indian boxers given the shambolic state of amateur boxing administration in the country, Vijender said it could well be the case in the times to come.
"May be it is going to be, right now we have three boxers in the Olympics. But why not? We are creating that platform for the youth. We can have good pro boxers shaping up. Right now, parents might feel what is the career if their kid takes up boxing but with pro, we are creating a new space for the youth, where there is limelight and a good career like me. So they can take up boxing as a career," he said.
Vijender's British trainer Lee Beard, who is here with him for this weekend's fight, said he has worked on adding variations to the Indian star's powerful jab. "He has always had a great right hand. I have been focussing on his left. He had a great jab too and the way he sets it up (the punches) is very good. We have been working on the variations to his jab," he said.
The renowned trainer was effusive in his praise for the Haryana-lad, who he feels, is as good as any celebrated pro boxer in the circuit. "Vijender is very experienced, very smart and very athletic. He is on the same level as some of the best that I have trained. He is among the smartest," he said.
"Every boxer is different in the sense that they have different rhythms, different styles but as far as the boxing brain is concerned, Vijender has the same as any world class fighter I have seen or trained. I have trained world champions, and he has got the same boxing brain," he added.
The bout will be held at the Thyagaraj Stadium, which has a capacity of nearly 6,000, and Vijender has already invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi, cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar and several other dignitaries for what promises to be a mega-event. The tickets of the bout are already on sale and the organisers claim that the first two phases of the sale has been sold out.