| NEW DELHI, April 6
NEW DELHI, April 6 Vijender Singh ran a finger
over his brow, mopped away a bead of sweat and calmly flicked it
It is with the same nonchalance that the trailblazing Indian
boxer dismissed talk of pressure and explained why it was
imperative to do well at the London Olympics.
In Singh, Indian boxing has found the face to match the
fists that were so essential in raising the sport's profile in a
country obsessed with both cricket and celebrity.
The middleweight bronze he won in Beijing four years ago has
completely changed the nation's perception of boxing and Singh
is all too aware of how important it is for India's pugilists to
build on that success.
"Beijing did change a lot of things for us," the pin-up boy
of Indian boxing told Reuters in an interview at the sauna-like
boxing hall of Delhi's Karnail Singh Stadium.
"More sponsors stepped in and money started coming in. If we
win more medals in London, I know things would become even
better," he said before flying to Kazakhstan this week for an
"I'm one hundred percent sure it will be better than
Beijing. Sumit (Sangwan), Vikas (Krishan Yadav) and Devendro
(Singh)... they all are medal prospects. These are the best crop
we have and I know we'll do well in London."
While Yadav (welterweight) and Devendro Singh (light
flyweight) are among the four Indians to have already qualified
for London, Sangwan (light heavyweight), Vijender Singh and four
more team mates will hope to secure their passage through the
April 4-13 qualifiers in Astana.
Singh's Beijing success has made him Indian boxing's first
real celebrity but he insists he remains the same person he was
before the last Olympics.
"Of course, I could go and take a walk around Connaught
Place (Delhi's business district) without being mobbed which I
"But honestly speaking, Beijing has not changed my life as
much as some people think," he said, sipping a sports drink.
His claim, however, is rather contradicted by the
26-year-old's occasional appearances on television shows and
catwalks, to go along with frequent sightings of him hobnobbing
with Bollywood celebrities.
However, Singh has now set aside such distractions to focus
on a second Olympic medal, knowing it will be a considerably
tougher assignment than Beijing, where he rose from obscurity.
"We all study opponents but I suspect we forget most of it
once we enter the ring," he said.
"People have studied me before as well but that does not
mean I have not won since Beijing," said Singh, who also claimed
a bronze at the 2009 world championship and was ranked world
number one in the same year.
"Also, it's not that I sit idle. I too, watch the bouts of
my opponents, study them and plan with my coach.
"I don't want to share my preparation details but I can
assure all that I would not let my country down."
(Editing by John O'Brien)
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