Vijender Singh: A cerebral boxer out to better his political CV

Ever since he started boxing, Vijender always preferred the gym and loved to pump iron. He could miss boxing rituals but not the gym.
Vijender Singh: A cerebral boxer out to better his political CV

His punchlines are as attractive as his jabs and hooks inside the ring that fetched him Olympic and Worlds medals. His penchant for glamour and fame took him beyond the rings and into the heady world of Bollywood. He acted and danced. He dabbled with professional boxing when it was not considered an attractive vocation in the country. Then he decided to venture into politics. In 2019 he joined Congress. And now five years later, he switched to the BJP.

Vijender Singh loves challenges. And he likes to take risks. “What is life if we don’t take risks?” he told this newspaper. That keeps him going. Invariably, one would want to know if he is well accustomed with the political discourse. Boxing or politics? “Boxing is my sport,” he said. “It’s my passion, my life. I can teach and I can guide you. But in politics, I am still learning.”

Perhaps, it’s because of the sport. Like all boxers, he abhors tight corners and finds a way to wriggle out of it. Even on the day he joined BJP, just days after re-tweeting Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, he managed to get off that tight corner when he was asked what changed overnight. “When I woke up, I found myself on the wrong platform…,” he said in his inimical way on Wednesday.

Even joining Congress was a sudden decision. During a conversation in 2019 (June), he said Congress had given him a ticket a week or so after his return from Manchester. So, he took the plunge. “I had nothing to lose and no regrets,” he had told then.

Fame, riches and stardom

From where Vijender came from (remote village in Bhiwani, Haryana), these words too would seem ensconced in the realm of fantasy rather than reality. But not for Vijender. He always loved glamour and wanted to act in movies and he followed his passion. A year after the 2008 Beijing Olympic bronze, he started visiting Mumbai, a place he had always dreamt of. He was jet-setting across the country and got sucked into a phantasmagorical universe where there is a very thin line dividing fantasy and reality. “I was loving it,” he had told this daily earlier. “First few months it was surreal.” However, he enjoyed it. “One must enjoy everything and I enjoyed every bit of it. Those few months were crazy. I had never been to Mumbai and then there I was with the set of people, who I used to see in movies and in my dreams. It was crazy.”

He also revealed how he used to get fidgety when his phone stopped ringing. The attention and fame was like an addiction. Then he managed to steer away from it and keep it at a healthy distance. This reveals an interesting side of him. Whatever he loves to do, he does it and enjoys it and he knows when to say enough is enough. Even now, acting gigs are on but not an addiction.

Finding a foothold

Changing party days before the general election came as a surprise to many but for Vijender, it was a calculated move. The decision had to be taken keeping in mind the future. “I had done this to strengthen my political career,” he said. “I had to make this time-sensitive decision to make a move to BJP. The objective is to take a route to build upon what I have already built while travelling in my political journey.”

One will have to wait and see how he builds his political CV but when it comes to boxing, there is no question of his dominance. During his amateur days, he was known for his cerebral boxing. He measured his opponents before unleashing lethal punches. Vijender used to outplay his opponents with smart moves rather than flamboyance; accumulate points and defend. He had an apt answer for this too. “I love my face and I would not let anyone disfigure it,” he told this reporter early in his career. Even now he loves his face and one thing that has remained constant – fitness. Even on Saturday while speaking, he was on the treadmill. “I take fitness seriously and never miss gym sessions as much as I can,” he said. Ever since he started boxing, Vijender always preferred the gym and loved to pump iron. He could miss boxing rituals but not the gym.

For a boxer dodging punches inside the ring is easy. In politics where attacks fly thick and fast from all directions, his agility to fend and duck would be tested to the max. Hopefully, the ace boxer will manage to stand on his feet for a long time, even after the warning bell. And of course, save his face too.

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The New Indian Express
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