Vijender Singh Beniwal is an Indian professional boxer who is currently the WBO Asia Pacific Super Middleweight Champion and WBO Oriental Super Middleweight Champion. At the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, he won a bronze medal — the first ever Olympic medal for an Indian boxer. He has also won several medals in Commonwealth and Asian games.
Early Life and Education
Vijender Singh was born on 29 October 1985 in a jat family, in Kaluwas village near Bhiwani in Haryana. His father Mahipal Singh Beniwal was a Haryana Roadways driver, and his mother, a housewife. Vijender started schooling in his village and then moved on to Bhiwani from where he did his High School and Graduation.
To better his job prospects, Vijender and his elder brother Manoj decided to learn boxing. His parents supported him to pursue boxing as a career. Vijender practiced at the Bhiwani Boxing Club. The Indian Boxing coach Jagdish Singh recognised his talent and encouraged him to take up boxing. Vijender worked part-time, also as a model, to finance his boxing coaching.
Early Boxing Successes
His dedication paid off when he won a bout in the state level competition. In 1997 Vijender won a silver medal in his first sub-junior nationals. He then bagged his first gold medal at the 2000 Nationals. In 2003, he became the all-India youth boxing champion and in the same year in Afro-Asian Games he won a silver medal. Vijender’s boxing style was influenced by the Rocky film series in which the Hollywood star Sylvester Stallone plays the boxer Rocky Balboa. He was also inspired by great boxers like Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson.
His Rise to Fame
In the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics, Vijender participated in the welterweight division, but could not win a medal. At the 2006 Commonwealth Games, Vijender won a bronze medal. He then decided to move up to the middleweight division of 75 kg. At the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, he won the bronze medal; and qualified for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Vijender prepared hard for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, during which he trained in Germany and practised with boxers from European countries. At The AIBA President’s Cup boxing tournament, before the Olympics, he defeated Bakhtiar Artayev, the 2004 Olympic Games gold medallist. At the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, he reached to semi-finals and got a bronze medal. This was the first ever Olympic medal for an Indian boxer. He got a hero’s welcome in India.
In July 2009, Vijender was awarded the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, which is India’s highest sporting honour. Later, Vijender accepted a job with the Haryana Police department.
In the 2009 World Amateur Boxing Championships, Vijender was awarded the bronze medal. In September 2009, the International Boxing Association (AIBA) ranked Vijender as the top-boxer in its middle-weight (75 kg) category, with 2800 points.
In January 2010, Vijender was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India. Same year, he won a silver medal in the invitational Champions of Champions boxing tournament in China.
At the 2010 Commonwealth Boxing Championship held in New Delhi, Vijender won gold medal. However, in the 2010 Commonwealth Games, Vijender Singh had to be content with a bronze medal due to some debatable refereeing issues.
At the 2012 Summer Olympics, he represented India but could not win any medal. In the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Vijender clinched the Silver Medal.
Life as a Celebrity
The 2008 Olympic win made Vijender a celebrity in the mainstream media. Vijender promoted the sports of boxing in India and inspired the young generation to take up boxing. He also exhorted people to promote other sports other than cricket. Vijender also appeared on several national television shows like Salman Khan’s game show ’10 Ka Dum’, ‘Nach Baliye’, ‘Roadies’ etc.
In 2013, Vijender was embroiled in a drug smuggling controversy, but was given a clean chit later. He also starred in a Bollywood movie Fugly in 2014, which was produced by Grazing Goat Productions, owned by Akshay Kumar.
Career as a Professional Boxer
In June 2015, Vijender Singh left amateur boxing to become a professional. On 10 October 2015 Vijender fought his first professional boxing match and won. By May 2016, Vijender already had 6 continuous wins, all through knockouts. On 7 July 2016, Vijender won the WBO Asia Pacific Super Middleweight title.
On 15 November 2016, Vijender successfully defended his title by beating the WBF Intercontinental super middleweight champion on knockout. On 5 August 2017, WBO organized a fight called Battleground Asia, in which Vijender retained his Asia Pacific title and won the Oriental title beating his Chinese opponent.
So far in his 9 professional fights, he has won all; including 7 by knockouts. These unbeaten records speak highly of his calibre as a boxer.
On 17 May 2011, Vijender married Archana Singh, a software engineer, in Delhi. The couple have one child Arbir Singh.
Inspirational Quotes by Vijender Singh Beniwal
“I always try to see the good in everything, and that gives me strength. Even when I lost in the London Olympics quarterfinals, I said to myself, ‘Don’t lose heart, God has his own plans.’ Actually, life just goes on; you have to accept whatever challenge you face and become stronger.”
“I think God has it written down for me, that without training and working hard you will never achieve desired results. All three times I have had to toil my way into the Olympics. Talking about pressure, well that is something you have to learn to deal with in sports.”
“Sportspersons have to reinvent themselves every day. It helps them improve.”
In the days to come, Vijender Singh is destined to become the top professional boxer in the world in his weight division. He will continue to bring glory to India through sheer grit, self-discipline and determination.
Written By: Raj Kumar Hansdah