Boxing day test: Is India ready for Vijender Singh, pro boxing?

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Vijender Singh’s homecoming in his first pro bout at Delhi’s Thyagaraj Sports Complex will be a good indicator of how ready India is to welcome the boxer and boxing in their new avatars, says Jonathan Selvaraj
Built during the heady construction boom ahead of the 2010 Commonwealth Games for the purpose of hosting the netball event, Thyagaraj Sports Complex, in central Delhi’s neighbourhood of INA colony, has gotten used to a more low profile role post the Games. It’s hosted the odd Pro Kabaddi League game and a few corporate tournaments but for most part Thyagaraj sports complex, despite its imposing concrete and glass structure, stays in character with its decidedly middle class surroundings. Outside the stadium, kids sprint on the synthetic running track. Other teens kick a football in the grassy space bounded by the track. Some parents keep watch from the concrete steps built into the side of the stadium while others simply snooze.
But Thyagaraj will break out of character this weekend. The venue, named after the medieval Tamil Carnatic composer, will witness heart-throb crooner Guru Randhawa belt out Punjabi love songs even as Bollywood actors, cricketers, politicians take their seats at the indoor venue. The wooden netball floor would have been covered up to fit in more seats, some 5000 in all, until just enough square footage remains to hold the squared circle.
Inside that canvas, former Olympic medallist Vijender Singh, still undisputedly the biggest name in Indian boxing, will do battle over 10 rounds with veteran Australian Kerry Hope. Vijender will be hoping the fight ends with him holding up his first professional title – a WBO Asia Pacific super middleweight title belt. If you take Vijender’s promoters at their word, Thyagaraj will likely have seen nothing like it and certainly not Indian boxing. “This will be the biggest sporting event featuring an Indian in July,” says Neerav Tomar, MD of IOS which manages the Indian.

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