'I am confident of winning and that belief is very important'
He hardly feels the burden of expectations that come with competing on home turf at the Commonwealth Games because World No 1 boxer, India's Vijender Singh says he considers himself simply the best.
India's first Olympic and World Championship bronze-medallist, the 24-year-old was hardly noticed when he won a silver at the previous Commonwealth Games but four years on, he is a brand ambassador for the event and is expected to rule the ring during the October 3 to 14 event.
"I consider myself the best... that is the key. I don't fear any competition. Whenever I enter the ring, I am confident of winning and that belief is very important," the dashing Haryana-lad, said.
Vijender, considered by many as 'the man to beat', recalled how this self-belief helped him upstage the then World Championship bronze medallist Neil Perkins of England in the semi-finals of the Melbourne Games.
"He made some very tall claims before the bout because he thought he was far superior than me. At that time, I had only started to make a name for myself but I knew I could beat him. This belief helped me and I defeated him and that too 22-14, which was a major upset," he remembered.
Image: Vijender Singh
'I don't allow negativity to set in'
But after the big win, Vijender lost in the final and the resultant silver medal was hardly noticed. He is intent on going one better this time and is counting on home support to get that.
"Fighting on home ground is more motivating than intimidating. You have your own people cheering for you and that gives an adrenaline rush which is sometimes enough to push an athlete into doing something extraordinary. I like the spotlight," he said.
"Of course, there is pressure but we have to deal with it. The less you think about it, the easier it is to handle. I believe in my abilities so the pressure doesn't affect me. I never allow negative thoughts to creep into my mind," he added.
Asked how he has changed as a boxer between Melbourne 2006 and Delhi 2010 apart from the fact that he now competes in middle weight 75kg instead of welter weight 69kg, Vijender said, "I have become more experienced. I have always been confident about myself and my technique has improved.
"I can anticipate my opponent's moves and I always have a plan B ready in case things don't work out the way I have planned originally. I work on my foot movement when I am training," said the poster-boy of Indian boxing.
Photograph: Harish Kotian
Image: Vijender (right) with fellow-boxer Jai Bhagwan at the Commonwealth Games Village in Delhi
'Boxers from Aus, Eng are good, but I am the best'
The 10-member team for the Games has undergone months of training at the National Institute of Sports in Patiala and the Khel Ratna awardee said the hard work will definitely bring in better results.
"We have had a good training camp in Patiala and that should definitely get us more medals at the Games. The coaches have worked very hard on us and I am confident that not just me, the entire team will do well for itself," he said.
When asked which international boxers could pose the biggest threat to his gold medal bid, Vijender asserted, "As I said, I don't like to think about my rivals, but boxers from Australia and England are good. But then again, I am the best."
Image: Vijender Singh