By Abhishek Singh
A hero doesn’t lose; he doesn’t fall and in the end, no matter what the odds, he will always triumph.
To most of us the definition of hero has been permanently distorted by Rajnikanth, Sunny Deol and perhaps too many other Bollywood stars. But the truth is that a hero to us is someone who makes miracles happen.
At the Beijing Olympics, Vijender Singh did exactly that by winning a bronze. And now every time he steps into a ring, whether he likes it or not, he’s expected to be the hero again. He cannot fail, he’s not allowed to.
But things have changed since the Olympics. Vijender’s got the looks, walks the ramp, gets featured in advertisements and in between when he gets the time, he boxes. The impression most of us will get after he got knocked out on the first round of the World Boxing Championships is that his priorities have changed.
We are tempted to believe that having earned the big bucks — he was lulled into a false sense of genius. Hard work gave way to walking on the ramp and as a result his bad days in office are going to be more than his good ones.
So when he did get knocked out… most of us were surprised but only because it happened in the first round, he wasn’t expected to go the full distance anyway.
As things stand, four Indian boxers have already qualified for the Olympics – Vijender isn’t one of them. His world ranking has dropped to eight and it instantly makes us question whether he is still India’s finest boxer.
Of course, he didn’t have luck on his side. His first round opponent was Emilio Correa Bayeux from Cuba, the Beijing Olympics silver medallist, and the only reason the two boxers faced each other in the opening bout was because a hand injury had kept the Cuban out of action for a year, thereby pegging him back in the world ranking.
Any suggestions about Vijender not physically (in terms of fitness) or mentally (focus) prepared for the bout would be premature. However, looking at the way the bout progressed, one wonders whether the Asian Games gold medallist was found wanting on the tactical front.
Bayeux put up guard in the first two rounds and made sure that he didn’t give Vijender, who is a good counter-puncher, a chance to rack up the easy points. A tactic that had the Indian boxer in a fix – he wasn’t sure whether to attack or defend – especially when you consider that AIBA’s new scoring system doesn’t allow a boxer to know the scores before the end of the round.
Only in September this year, Vijender had bagged gold in the World Police Games and bagged the ‘Best Boxer’ award from among many top pugilists. But even in that tournament, Vijender was not entirely comfortable with the new scoring system which was introduced in April this year.
The idea behind the rule changes, which also replaced the earlier ‘four rounds of two minutes’ format to ‘three rounds of three minutes’, was to make the bout more interesting and competitive.
But that has severely affected boxers like Vijender, who rely a lot on their defensive tactics to unsettle the opponent and then score points on the counter. But with the new system, they struggle to keep track of the scores and the additional minute added to every round only makes a defensive strategy more difficult to implement.
Understandably, Vijender was among the boxers who were critical of the new system. “I don’t understand this new system of scoring. I like the previous one. This system leaves one confused because a boxer might think that he is ahead only to find out later that he is actually down. You never know where you are and that affects your strategy,” he had said in May.
It isn’t all curtains for Vijender though. Not yet. He has some time to come to grips with the new rules the next qualifying event —the last chance — will be a continental championship in February-March 2012. The Indian should not find it difficult to tackle the competition there.
Even during the last edition, Vijender had booked his berth for the Beijing Games through the continental event and he can certainly do that this time round too. Our hero only needs to figure how to hang on one minute longer and perhaps he’ll revert to his true world conquering self once again.