Since the last time Vijender Singh fought and fumbled at the Commonwealth Games, the world has changed to include the ubiquitous Selfie. Boxing’s changed as well, to lay bare an open face, freed up from the headgear, the last screened curtain for the boxer removed from those watching him from the stands. Naked faces are also facing the closest scrutiny from opponents.
Vijender Singh, India’s undeniable poster boy even six years after Beijing, did enough damage to first-round opponent Andrew Kometa’s alarmed mug and torso, and kept his own face un-bruised, to win a dominating opener and proceed to pose for selfies with fans who had trooped in, chanting his name vociferously from the stands to be themselves applauded by the organisers as the loudest fans. “Idea was to sustain minimum damage and land maximum punches,” Vijender said later. Perhaps, India’s best improviser in the ring, the 28-year-old’s fighting style was almost unrecognisable as he left loose his guard and pounded the hapless opponent from Kiribati in the 75 kg opener at the Scottish Exhibition & Conference Centre in a Saturday night hammering hive.
The trick he reckoned was in softening up the body, and drilling the fear of the devil into the Pacific islander’s mind so that he faced the least number of ripostes. This he did by going on the offensive from the time of the buzzer, hunching low and bending back for a flurry into the ribcage.
When the dazed opponent, a clearly inferior first-round punchbag, attempted to guard his torso, Vijender had his straight ones ready to stun the face and start picking the points. The body-blows left Kometa retreating to the ropes and even there he was a man exposed and hoping desperately that the clock would tick off. The minnow could hardly get a punch in - though he had a hard one - and it was pretty evident from quarter-way through the first round that Vijender would gobble this one up. “He neutralised the power in the Kiribari boxer’s punch by not giving him an opening, though he didn’t need his guard up. It was easy,” Cuban BI Fernanded summed up.
“A lot has changed, not just rules,” Vijender said, hinting at the tumultuous year he suffered under scrutiny, away from the ring. He also insisted he had a date to keep with Scotland where he’d come as a young boxer a decade back, and picked