The India vs. Pakistan sporting rivalry is played out most famously on the cricket pitch, but if Olympic bronze medalist Vijender Singh has his way, he’ll be entering the ring to face Amir Khan, the veteran British star of Pakistani descent, for what could be the most intense showdown between India and Pakistan ever in a boxing ring.
The possibility of a Vijender Singh vs. Amir Khan megafight started to look more real over the weekend, after the 30-year-old from Haryana, India — in only his seventh professional fight — won a unanimous decision over Australian Kerry Hope to capture the World Boxing Organization Asia Pacific Super Middleweight Championship, in a fight that took place Friday at Thyagaraj Stadium in New Delhi.
Watch highlights of the Vijender Singh victory over Kerry Hope in the video below.
Of his seven fights since turning pro last October, the regional title fight was the first for the undefeated Vijender in his home country. His first six bouts, which all ended by knockout, were held in the United Kingdom, Khan’s own home turf.
Though Singh is one year older than Khan, the British-born former junior welterweight champion possesses vastly more experience than the India-born fighter, with 35 fights in his career, losing only four. In his most recent fight, however, Khan was knocked out in devastating fashion in the sixth round by Mexican superstar Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.
The son of a bus driver whose father often worked overtime to support Vijender’s boxing career, Singh put together a lengthy and distinguished amateur career before taking the professional plunge relatively late in life. After taking the 2008 Olympic middleweight bronze medal, Singh went on to win bronze at the 2009 World Championships and a gold medal in the 2010 Asian Games, among numerous other honors.
With that sparkling amateur résumé, even with his shortage of pro experience, Vijender said after defeating Hope that he feels prepared to take on Khan, one of the world’s top stars in the sport of boxing.
“If it happens it will be a huge fight. I am ready for it, ready to take that challenge. That’s my message to Amir,” Vijender said to the OneIndia news site. “But I don’t know if it will become a reality. It will the fight of the century, like Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao fight. I am ready to fight him anywhere.”
Khan, however, while he expressed admiration for Singh, also had some sharp words for his upstart rival.
“I find Vijender’s challenge quite funny, I will ruin his career,” Khan told India’s NDTV network.
“I like Vijender, he is a great talent but sometimes you can’t bite more than you can chew,” Khan told Zee News. “It is too early in his career to try and challenge established boxers like me. If he fights with me at this time, it will destroy his professional career. This is not to disrespect him but he has to be smart while choosing opponents. There is a big difference between his and my level.”
If u can dream it u can do it pic.twitter.com/lQ52W83HmA
— Vijender Singh (@boxervijender) July 18, 2016
Nonetheless, Khan said he realized the magnitude of the proposed fight, if it were to actually happen.
“You’ve got the India-Pakistan connection, and that will make this bout huge. It will be like India-Pakistan in cricket,” he said.
Khan has now suffered three knockout losses, however, and may be looking for alternative career options outside of boxing. In fact, Khan is a shareholder in the India mixed martial arts Super Fight League promotional company, and Khan himself may be exploring a move from the squared circle to the Octagon.
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After negotiations for an inter-sport fight between Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and UFC champion Conor McGregor fell apart, Khan now says that he is willing to step in and fight McGregor in an MMA match.
“McGregor is a massive name in MMA and I’m a big name in boxing, so, globally, I think it would be a massive fight,” Khan told the BBC. “I’ve been fighting all my life, so, for me, I don’t think it’d be a problem for me to learn and switch over to the sport.”
A switch in sports by Amir Khan would likely rule out an India vs. Pakistan boxing match against Vijender Singh once and for all.
[Photos By Dave Thompson/Al Bello/Getty Images]