New Delhi: Star Indian boxer Vijender Singh is open to the idea of competing in professional boxing as he feels with the headguards going out of the equation in the amateur arena, the dividing line between the two formats has blurred considerably.
The strapping six-footer, who was content being an amateur till not too long ago, has had a change of heart after the recent rule change by the international body.
"I might give it a shot. There is hardly any difference between amateur and professional boxing given that headguards won't be there in both. I might agree if a good offer comes along in the AIBA Professional Boxing League. I have trained quite a lot of times without a headguard. It's no big deal but any change at the competition level is adapted only over a period of time," Vijender said.
Vijender has resumed training only recently after getting his name cleared in a damaging drug scandal. He had to undergo a NADA dope test following accusations of consuming heroin but the result was in his favour. The former world number one middleweight boxer resumed his training at the Sports Authority of India Centre in Sonepat, instead of NIS Patiala, where he usually trains.
"I just wanted a break from the usual after what had happened. Even otherwise, the coaches are not in the country right now because they are out with various teams. So, I just came to Sonepat and I am being trained by Mr C Kuttappa (a coach close to him since his formative years). National coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu told me I should check out Sonepat SAI centre, so I came here. SAI Director General was kind enough to allow me and it is a fantastic facility with all amenities," Vijender added.
Back on the subject of headguards, Vijender warned of frequent injury breakdowns in the absence of the protective gear.
"When you are competing with a headguard, the risk of injury is a little less and you can be more attacking. Without a headguard, you have to be more careful," he explained.
Even the upper age limit for amateur boxers has been increased from 34 to 40 and Vijender said all these changes are a sign that professional boxing would be promoted in a big way.
"The reason why these changes have been made is that AIBA wants to focus on professional boxing and it is the way forward in my opinion also. The age limit has been increased because AIBA wants boxers to try both formats," said Vijender.
Asked how the Indian boxers would cope with the change, Vijender said it would take some time.
"It will take time no doubt but we will adapt. It happens with every major change, you cannot expect overnight good results. You have to be patient," he said.
Vijender said the India would be better off getting some fresh expertise from the professional circuit to help the boxers.
"I think we should get more experts, that will certainly speed up the process of adapting to the changes. Besides, the role of physios and doctors would be more important because of the injury risk, we need good professionals to deal with these issues," he explained.
Vijender said Indians embracing professional boxing would also be quite a money-spinner for the sport in general.
"It is a marketing guy's dream come true. I am sure the people in general would be very interested if professional boxing comes to India in a big way," he said.
Vijender, a trailblazer in Indian boxing, being the first to bag and Olympic and World Championships medal (bronze on both occasions), remains focussed on the sport despite the setbacks he suffered in the past two months.
"My boxing career will continue normally. I am what I am because of boxing and I shall continue. I am just focussed on the present," said Vijender when asked how he saw his career shaping up from now on.