As tensions between China and India escalate, two boxers go head-to-head in Mumbai to determine the ‘king of Asia’
Two boxers fight to be named king of the region as ‘Battleground Asia’ kicks off in Mumbai
As the political spat between China and India intensifies over the Bhutan border and the region attempts to de-escalate brewing tensions, one Indian is doing his utmost to whip up the souring atmosphere.
Undefeated Indian boxer Vijender Singh (8-0) takes on China’s top-ranked super-middleweight Zulipikar Maimaitiali (8-0-1) in Mumbai on Saturday night with the WBO Asia-Pacific and Oriental super middleweight titles on the line, and the Indian is using the political dispute to drum-up interest in “Battleground Asia”, which could pave the way for a world title shot down the line.
“There is more responsibility [than pressure] because it is India versus China and right now the situation is bad,” Singh said. “I would say it is kind of a responsibility.”
The controversial 31-year-old, who is eyeing opportunities in the UK and US if he manages to overcome 23-year-old Maimaitiali, is taking every opportunity to downplay the threat from his opponent while jabbing away at his Chinese nationality.
“If I get a chance, I will take him down. I don’t have to play the 10 rounds. I will try to knock him down by the fourth or fifth round,” he said.
Singh, a bronze medallist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, has won seven of his eight fights by knockout and claims his Chinese opponent won’t last long.
“You never know with the Chinese,” he said. “Chinese products are not known to last long.”
Not to be outdone in the nation-baiting stakes, Maimaitiali fired back.
“I will show Vijender what Chinese are capable of,” said the Xinjiang-native. “We have shown India time and again what China is capable of, it’s time that Vijender too learns his lesson.
“I am coming to your home, Vijender, on 5th August and will take back your belt along with mine.”
— Vijender Singh (@boxervijender) August 2, 2017
Singh, the only Indian male to win an Olympic boxing medal, has been out of the ring since defending his Asia-Pacific strap against Tanzanian Francis Cheka in December last year. But he says his superior experience will be a telling factor on Saturday night.
“[Maimaitiali] has had just eight fights so far. I don’t consider him an experienced boxer. But he has scored around five to six knockouts. He is a strong kid, I can say that.”
Promoters, always quick to seize on an emotive selling point, are calling the fight card “Battleground Asia” and say the result will crown the “king of Asia”.
Maimaitiali, whose most recent fight was promoted by Bob Arum, CEO of US-based promoter Top Rank, is coming off the back of a win against Ravan Mammadov of Azerbaijan in Shanghai in April, and will be fighting outside of China for the first time.
“Vijender will be surprised when I throw punches at him. He thinks I am a kid, but he has no idea who I am,” said Maimaitiali.
“I know his traits and I am preparing accordingly. I am putting in 10 hours every day into training to make sure Vijender is knocked out in the first two to three rounds.”