Olympic bronze-medallist Vijender Singh has said he will draw inspiration from Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao in his political innings which start with the Congress in the ongoing general elections.
Vijender Singh, the first Indian boxer to win an Olympic medal, from Bhiwani in Haryana was on Monday nominated from the South Delhi constituency by the Congress to contest against BJP’s sitting MP Ramesh Bidhuri and Aam Aadmi Party’s Raghav Chadha.
“I want to be India’s Manny Pacquaio. It would be great if I can be as good as him because I am not giving up boxing. That’s my first love, will always be. That’s my identity and I am not going to give it up,” the 33-year-old said.
Manny Pacquiao, serving as a Senator of the Philippines, is the only eight-division world champion in the history of boxing. He is also the first to win major world titles in four out of eight weight classes — flyweight, featherweight, lightweight and welterweight.
The 40-year-old was elected to Philippines’ House of Representatives, from the province of Sarangani, in 2010. He was re-elected in 2013 before winning the election to his country’s Senate in June 2016. His term is till 2022.
All this while he remains an active boxer and defended his WBA welterweight title in January this year against American Adrien Broner.
Vijender Singh said his path is not going to be too different if he goes on to win on debut.
“Even if I make it to Parliament, I will identify myself as boxer Vijender Singh and will continue to juggle my responsibilities,” he added.
The last active sportsperson to fight an election in India was cricketer Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, who lost from Gurgaon in 1971 while competing for a regional party.
Vijender Singh has won a gold medal in the Asian Games, three medals at the Commonwealth Games, and multiple Asian Championship medals.
He recently signed up with the legendary Bob Arum’s Top Rank Promotions and is expected to make his debut on the American soil in the next few months.
When asked whether he has a plan to manage two diverse careers in different continents on top of it?
“What plan? Rab aape hi karda hai sab kuch (God takes care of everything). He wants me to be a leader, he will make me one. I follow his wish,” he said.
Vijender Singh said the issues he will focus on are youth and, of course, sports.
“I am genuinely concerned about employment, which I think is a prominent issue for the youth. And being a sportsperson, I am also keen on working towards developing sports infrastructure. It’s about time we had good infrastructure so that budding athletes can actually flourish,” he said.
Asked why he opted for the Congress, a party which did not win a single seat in Delhi in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Vijender Singh said: “I relate to the ideology and the leadership.”
“As is propagated by our leadership, I want to be a friend of the electorate. I don’t wish to be the neta that visits once in five years. I am not going to do rallies or road shows. I am going to connect with the voters spontaneously.”