Confident but not complacent ahead of his WBO Asia Pacific super middleweight title defence this Saturday, Indian boxing star Vijender Singh has been working with a strength coach -- John Joyce -- to prepare for the face-off against former world champion Francis Cheka.
Vijender will take on Tanzanian Cheka in a 10-round contest in a fight night which will feature five undercard bouts.
"Joyce has been working with me for over month and a half. He helps us out in training because a 10-round contest requires immense physical fitness," Vijender said.
Vijender's British trainer Lee Beard revealed that Joyce has had the experience of working with even football players back in UK.
"He is a professional coach and has worked with professional Premier League soccer players and other professional boxers. He has been a great addition to the training camp and has plenty of experience to offer," Beard said.
Vijender kicked off the year with a third round stoppage win over Hungarian Alexander Horvath at Liverpool's Echo Arena before claiming another knockout win over experienced Frenchman Matiouze Royer at London's Copper Box Arena.
He earned his first professional title in the WBO Asia Pacific Super-Middleweight Championship against Australia's Kerry Hope in July and entered the WBO World rankings in 10th place.
The undefeated Vijender has a 7-0 record so far.
Cheka, on the other hand, is a veteran of 43 fights with 32 wins including 17 KO's. In a career spanning close to 17 years, he has tested himself against top Super-Middleweight talent including former WBA World Champion Fedor Chudinov and three-time World title challenger Mathew Macklin.
"Cheka is a highly-experienced boxer, he has many bouts under his belt but I am the younger, stronger and hungrier fighter," said Vijender of his opponent.
"I am confident of getting another win, I feel my stance is becoming better with every training session and on top of that I feel more powerful than ever. On December 17 you will all see the results of the hard work and dedication that goes on behind the scenes.
"This is my title and I'll be protecting it with pride. The support that I receive both here in the UK and back home in India is overwhelming. I'll pay back everyone's support and retain my title for the people of India!" he added.
The bout's guest list features names from the world of politics, sports and Bollywood.
The list from the sporting arena includes Virender Sehwag, Shikhar Dhawan, Yogeshwar Dutt, Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar, Mary Kom, Akhil Kumar and Jitender Kumar. Also there will be Vijender's friends from Bollywood -- Neha Dhupia and Rahgu Ram join in cheering for him.
The list of the politicians includes Minister of State Affairs Kiren Rijiju, Designer Rohit Bal, Sports Minister Vijay Goel, Chief Minister Haryana ML Khattar, Deputy Chief Minister Delhi Manish Sisodia and former CM Haryana Bhupinder Hooda.
The 'Night Of The Champions' will be telecast on Star Sports 1 and HD 1 and Hotstar.
If Singh overcomes his latest challenge on Saturday, then 2017 could be an even bigger year for the boxer.
Expect Singh to further expand his already bulging fan club with a huge fight in Leicester being touted for early next year. Nearly 30% of Leicester’s population is Asian, making it a perfect city to build Singh’s fan base.
Neerav Tomar, MD, IOS Boxing Promotions, who is currently plotting Vijender’s next moves, said: “He has been a very well mannered and soft spoken boxer, but when it comes to his punching ability, he is better than anyone else who I have come across. I am sure, he will put a great show and will defend his title with as much pride as he won it. I wish luck to both the boxers and hope for an entertaining show on 17th December 2016.”
Image: Vijender Singh with his belt
Photograph: IOS Sports and Entertainment