Inside Vijender Singh's rigorous training regime ahead of his bout with Zulpikar Maimaitiali

A professional boxing bout can last a maximum of 36 minutes. For someone like Vijender singh, who is still fighting 10 rounds instead of the full distance of 12 three-minute rounds, it can go on for just 30 minutes.

But to be ready to last in the ring for that much time, it takes months and months of single-minded persistence and following a routine with an armyman’s discipline.

With India’s Vijender Singh taking on China’s Zulpikar Maimaitiali on Saturday with the Indian’s WBO Asia Pacific Super Middleweight belt and the Chinese pugilist’s WBO Oriental Super Middleweight belt on the line, we take a closer look at how Vijender trains for a fight.

“All the hard work has been done over these many months. Until some time ago, he was doing sparring and gymming and overcame the pain barrier multiple times. The time for hard work is done. What we are doing now is just working smartly. At this point, it’s all about keeping his mind relaxed,” Vijender’s trainer Lee Beard said on the sidelines of a training session in Mumbai.

Vijender’s strength and conditioning coach, John Joyce, adds: “At the moment, Vijender’s focus is only on his game plan. How he’s going to be in the match, where he's going to move, where the punches will come from, what punches he has to throw.”

There are two distinct phases as a boxer readies for a fight. The months leading up to the fight are used to work on conditioning the body. To help the boxer get in shape for a fight. The next phase, say a week before the fight, the boxer focuses on making the weight for a fight, his technique and on things like promotional activities and keeping his focus on his opponent. Normally, any boxer is around four to five pounds heavier than the requirement for his weightclass. Vijender, as of Wednesday, was around four pounds heavier.

“Vijender’s conditioning finished last week, now he's just working on his technique for the fight,” Joyce added.

1000 sit-ups, 1000 press-ups, one-mile swims

But during his conditioning phase, what does an average day in Vijender’s life at his training base in Manchester look like?

“He wakes up by 7:30 am. He then starts gym at 11. Does a weight session coupled with 1,000 sit-ups, 1,000 press-ups. These are in sets of four. He’ll also do some Tabata work. (Tabata training is a form of workout found in Japan involving high-intensity interval training.)

“He also does a lot of intense work on the treadmill before moving on to sparring and padwork, (punching the pads of the trainer as he moves). That's an average day. He does all that in two-and-half hours,” Joyce said.

“Then, in the evening, he goes for either a swim or run. Not both on the same day, as you have to rest your joints. If you run too much, it puts pressure on the knees, ankles and hips. One day you run, the other day you swim.

“He swims one mile. About 25 metres per minute. And he runs about six-seven miles in an hour. These are for stamina. Sometimes he also gets up and goes for a run.”

Joyce adds that just so that a boxer’s body doesn’t get used to a routine, they sometimes turn the weekly training routine upside down to “shock the system”.

“If you take a 12-round match, each fight can go on for a maximum of 36 minutes. So to train for that, you run an hour. You never do anything more than an hour. No point running a marathon to train for a boxing match,” Joyce asserted.

“A boxer’s muscles should not be built like a bodybuilder’s. The focus is more on mental toughness,” Vijender told Firstpost.

One of the biggest thing that Joyce has to guard against, is over-training which can lead to muscle injuries. “I have to make sure he doesn't overtrain. Sometimes I tell him you don't do nothing tomorrow. You get up, sleep extra, eat, and nothing else for the day.”

What can also make the difference between winning and losing in boxing is how a boxer can withstand punches, especially to the core.

“That's what conditioning is for. We do 200-300 sit-ups four times a day. You have to be strong in the belly. We also use a medicine ball to keep pummeling him in the ribs as he keeps his arms aloft. Sparring is another way to toughen up the body. When it comes to learning how to withstand punches, sparring is more important than anything. Sparring is the only way to simulate punches to the body.”

Joyce pointed out that Vijender was ‘flabby’ when he came on board nearly a year ago, but over the last three bouts the Indian has become a fitter prospect.

“I’ve been training him for the last three fights. He was not very strong, and was a bit flabby before I came on board. But I think that was best as he was like a blank sheet. Vijender never had a conditioner before, but he's a lot stronger now. You’ll see tomorrow when he knocks the guy out,” Joyce said.

What Vijender eats (or doesn't)

“There's a nutritionist who cooks two meals for him everyday. He's allowed to cook one meal for himself, but that has to be low in calories. Maybe high in carbohydrates,” Joyce said.

The food Vijender eats also depends on what stage of the training he is in. In the beginning with many months left for his next fight, he’ll eat a lot of carbohydrates for the energy. And then as he comes closer to the fight, he needs to meet his weight (76.2kg). So then it becomes more about consuming proteins and using the body fat as fuel. When you take more proteins, your body works harder to break down the proteins and consequently, you burn more calories.

Vijender’s biggest quandary, he willingly admitted, was sticking to the tough dietary requirements.

“I have a massive sweet tooth. But I have to avoid it at all costs. I also have to avoid Indian food,” he said.

Tackling a southpaw

One of the biggest aspects of a boxer’s routine this close to a fight is technique training. The focus right now for Vijender is on decoding Zulpikar’s boxing style, since he is a southpaw.

“The trick to fighting a southpaw is to move to your left. You keep your foot outside the southpaw’s stance. That opens up the body of the southpaw,” Joyce said.

Updated Date: Aug 03, 2017 17:41 PM

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