Mumbai: Star Indian boxer Vijender Singh on Wednesday shot back at his detractors and reiterated that it was not money that prompted him to leave amateur boxing but his "wish" to become a professional.
"Why not, it's a good thing. It's been 15 years (as an amateur boxer). It's my wish (to turn professional)," said the 2008 Beijing Olympics bronze medallist after his first professional training stint at a suburban mall here with his pro trainer Lee Beard.
When pointedly asked if it was for money that he had abandoned the amateur ranks and with it the chance to take part in coveted events like the Olympics, Vijender said: "It's (for) everything."
On why he didn't wait till next year's Rio Games and then become a professional boxer, Vijender, who represented the country in 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics, curtly replied: "I had represented India in three Olympics. It's not easy. Why don't you do it?
"I had another opportunity and that's why I have turned a pro. It's hard work. Pro boxing is about hard punching," he shot back.
Vijender's professional boxing promoter Francis Warren also butted in after seeing his top Indian signing being grilled by the reporters, saying: "It's ambition."
Warren took umbrage at another query on whether he had signed Vijender as a publicity stunt.
"It's an extremely disrespectful remark first of all. Vijender is an extreme talent. He has been medaled at every competition he has entered where he has represented India with pride and honour and with huge success.
"To me personally, I would not sign anybody without talent and ambition to succeed. I asked him what his ambition was and he said he wanted to be a world champion. This has nothing to do with publicity," Warren emphasised.
"He is an Olympic medallist. He could be your first world champion as well. He's a huge talent. I am extremely proud to sign him up. He has been the best amateur boxer in India for years and wants to be the best pro boxer. He can't box for ever...Maximum he has got 6-7 years (in his career). He should not feel after 50 that I wish I should have done this and that. He wants to put India on the boxing map. He has got all the talent and capability to do so," he insisted.
Vijender had recently signed a multi-year promotional agreement with promoters UK-based Queensberry Promotions that will see the 29-year-old Haryana middleweight boxer fight a minimum of six times in the first year.
Meanwhile, Beard praised his new ward as an intelligent boxer.
"He's a naturally gifted boxer. He has represented India in three Olympics. He had competed at that level. There's lot of difference between amateur and pro boxing, which is more physical," said Beard.
The trainer said Vijender's physical fitness despite being an amateur boxer had surprised him.
"Physically he surprised me with his very good level of fitness. He's got a very strong mind (too). What he needs is to increase the number of rounds. Pro game is different. He's already shown tremendous mental strength during his 15 years as an amateur. But it's not easy to turn pro," said Beard.
Vijender welcomed the move of former Indian boxing federation secretary
Muralidhar Raja starting a professional boxing body -- IBC -- in India.
"That's amazing. It is a new beginning. Muralidhar Raja is an amazing guy and is very hard working," gushed Vijender.